According to residents of Atan, a village of 400 in the Lori Marz, there has been an outbreak of disease among their livestock that has lasted for fifteen or twenty days now.
Said Susanna Simonyan, “All the animals in the village are sick, saliva drips from their mouths, they can't walk, they fall down, and they have sores on their bodies. The efforts of the village veterinarian have been ineffective; there is little medicine available and not all the animals receive it. Furthermore, he cannot help all the animals by himself, and there is no help from outside.”
The residents of Atan have decided to get together and go to the Lori Marz administration for help. According to the Atan-Alaverdi bus driver, “Mayor Shaliko's cow died, and he threw it into the canyon last night. There are 2,000 animals in the village and four out of five are sick.”
The residents of Atan depend on their livestock for survival. Many have gone into debt to pay for their animals, and now they are very worried. Not only that, because of the epidemic they have been unable to save up for the winter months.
“The epidemic came into Atan from Noyemberyan and Dilijan, which border forty kilometers of our meadows,” said Vruyr Marukyan, Atan's veterinarian.
Hamlet Apresyan, senior veterinarian at theAnti-EpidemicVeterinaryCentersaid, “The animals in Atan are not sick with the plague, but with blackleg, which is a form of cholera.” Apresyan explained that the disease had been caused by the lengthy drought, and that Lori veterinarians were aware of the condition of the animals in Atan and had sent two shipments of medicine to the village. At theAnti-EpidemicCenter, veterinarians from other areas told us that the disease is is easy to treat, and that two or three days was enough to cure all the animals. But if so, why had the epidemic in Atan been going on for fifteen days, and was now threatening Shamut, Lorut and other nearby villages? The senior veterinarian explained, “On our end, all the instructions were sent. But the drugs are administered on their end, and the next moment the animals walk into the mud. They need sunny weather. We received drugs; the services provided were paid for out of the state budget. The Atan case wasn't planned for; the disease came from outside, and we are working within our resources.”
Aram Martirosyan, the chief expert the Lori Branch of the Agriculture Ministry's Food Safety Department, admitted that more should have been done to deal with the emergency in Atan, and that veterinarians face serious difficulties elsewhere in the Tumanyan region as well. “We do whatever we can. There are 2,000 animals in Atan and only one veterinarian. He cannot physically vaccinate so many animals and stay within the limits of the state budget. The villagers think that it's the same veterinary service as it was during Soviet times, that everything from antibiotics to iodine comes out of the state budget. But the only thing the state budget pays for is vaccines,” Martirosyan said.
In our conversation with Martirosyan we learned that no laboratory diagnosis had been performed in Atan or the neighboring sites of the epidemic; rather the diagnosis had been done on the spot. The expert tried to persuade us that there was nothing to worry about. We wondered why people in Atan were so frightened. He replied, “To put it bluntly, they want to make a big scandal out of this. They found out that there is a drug “X” available, and the government can give them money, so they don't have to spend anything, they don't have to pay 1,000 drams for alum or magnesium. The villagers think that the veterinarian is obliged to tend to their animals from morning to night.”
The Drug X Martirosyan is referring to is the famous Armenikum, which most veterinarians treat with skepticism, saying that no matter how much they injected it into livestock last year, the animals still died.
The chief expert and the veterinarians who gathered in his office also complained about their low salaries, which they receive once every six, explaining that it's impossible to support a family on what they are paid.
Only 22 of the Tumanyan region's 31 communities have veterinarians. The center has no car and no place to administer vaccines. Yet it's impossible to vaccinate animals located 35 kilometers apart by foot, because one ampoule of vaccine is intended for 100 animals, and often there aren't that many animals on one mountain, but the vaccine loses its usefulness within four hours of being opened. The veterinarians also complained that they do not receive syringes and needles, or sometimes they do get syringes, but no needles. Also, there is no facility in the region where animals can be slaughtered, and this can cause the outbreak of disease.