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Chicken flu: Growing concern in Thailand ministry


February 9, 2004
-by Dan Dyck


In better times, Rad Houmphan (centre) and her Sunday school class of 2002 used eggs in teaching about Easter. The chicken flu in Thailand this year may change how eggs are used in many circumstances.

View or download full sized image.


Borabur, Thailand — The chicken flu has not yet reached this area populated by poor subsistence farmers in rural Northeast Thailand, reported Pat Houmphan, Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker in a recent telephone interview.

Houmphan says the government is taking the virus seriously, sending health authorities all over the country to try and find out how far the virus has spread. Where they find the virus, they eliminate the chicken population completely. Officials maintain there is no evidence that this virus spreads from people to people.

Houmphan is keeping an eye out for unusual and severe illness as his ministry travels take him to different villages. “If I’m visiting people and I notice things are quite strange, or they get the flu, I will advise them that they need to see a doctor and get medical advice right away.” Borabur county is home to 203 villages.

Borabur county has very little commercial poultry production – seemingly the biggest source of concern. However, it does mean that people in Houmphan’s village who are able must travel 90 km to the nearest supermarket to purchase poultry products from sources they can trust. Others must rely on local markets, a source of concern for Houmphan. The average family of four earns the equivalent of about $1,000-$1200/year.

Houmphan and his wife Rad are trying to be careful in their food consumption. “We are not eating the chicken and eggs from the local market, because we have no clue where their source of chicken and eggs comes from.”

Interview with Houmphan

Listen to the interview with Pat Houmphan:

How is the chicken flu we are hearing so much about here in Canada affecting your area of Borabur County in northeast Thailand?
Chicken Flu Effect.mp3 - will open in a new window [176KB - Help with mp3 files]

How are the farmers in your area coping economically as a result of this virus?
Subsistence Farmers.mp3 - will open in a new window [94KB - Help with mp3 files]

What is the biggest cultural challenge of your ministry?
worldview.mp3 - will open in a new window [222KB - Help with mp3 files]

Mennonite Church Canada is supporting the Cow Lending Project in your county. Can you tell us how that works?
cow lending project.mp3 - will open in a new window [198KB - Help with mp3 files]