Reducing rabies in Malawi’s capital
Achieving a rabies-free Lilongwe
Covid-19 crisis: Animal welfare work in times of a pandemic
Some activities and focal points of our animal welfare work worldwide – whether sanctuaries, trainings or mobile clinics – had to be paused or adapted in response to the pandemic:
Still, it is our highest priority to safe animal lives, but we cannot risk the health of our partners in doing so. To enable us to carry on our basic animal welfare work despite the current crisis, we have developed the WTG Emergency Fund. Read more about the fund here https://welttierschutz.org/en/wtg-emergency-fund/
We promise to do everything in our power to continue offering the best protection for all animals – the stray cats and dogs, livestock such as donkeys, cattle, sheep and goats as well as wildlife like pangolins and sloths, elephants and bears. Please support our work https://welttierschutz.org/secure/spenden/emergency-fund/
„Rabies Free 2030“– by 2030, human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies will be eliminated. That is the goal of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). However, this is very different from reality in the East African country of Malawi. Although in its capital Lilongwe, we have been able to vaccinate more than 30.000 dogs each year over the last few years through massive vaccination campaigns, there is a desperate need to prevent new infections by doing follow-up vaccinations as well as further involve the local population in the fight against rabies. Together with our partners of the Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (LSPCA), we are piloting a new project.
Lilongwe is a well-known mission country for us at the Welttierschutzgesellschaft. In cooperation with the Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (LSPCA), we have over four different phases vaccinated more than 30.000 dogs against rabies since 2015. As instructed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), these campaigns followed the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of Lilongwe’s dog population to lower the risk of new infections significantly for both the current and future dog generations.
Especially the insufficient and slow communication, when it comes to the reporting and monitoring of bite incidences has so far prevented long-term success and the accomplishing of a rabies-free capital. There are still cases, where dogs bite someone or straying dogs are killed simply out of fear of rabies. This is, however, rarely checked up on or even documented somewhere, although it is absolutely necessary to report any bite case or suspicious animal immediately to be able to instantly initiate the appropriate measures.
Anti-rabies teams as a key for success
One of the main parts of this project is therefore the creation of so-called “Rabies Action Groups”, consisting of volunteering members of the local community as well as project coordinators, a rabies control officer, veterinarians and veterinary assistants. These teams are operating around the clock in overall nine rabies hotspots within the altogether 59 districts of Lilongwe. These areas have been specifically chosen as they have had the most bite cases in recent times.
Key tasks of the teams are to establish contact with community members and be the point of contact when it comes to rabies. The locals can report bite incidences and possible rabies cases to team members directly or use a free “rabies hotline”.
Using a Community based Communication System (CBCS), all incoming information as well as ensuing anti-rabies measures, such as the isolation of animals and re-vaccinating of dogs, are collected electronically and entered into a database by one of our team members. This database is provided by the GARC (Global Alliance for Rabies Control), an international cooperation of various organisations.
Using the data collected, location maps and tables regarding the spread of rabies can be developed. Additionally, the data gives an insight into the state of rabies in general in Lilongwe and allows more efficient planning for future anti-rabies measures.
Informational campaigns for the local population
Along with volunteers being able to join “Rabies Action Groups”, massive posters have been hung on busy locations in the whole city to inform locals about the anti-rabies groups and the rabies hotline as well as the appropriate handling of a possibly rabies-infected dog. The people are encouraged to take responsibility in stopping rabies and actively help the success of the measures taken.
Altogether, our pilot project ensures that
- Rabies-infected dogs are identified and isolated and that
- follow-up vaccinations in potentially threatened rabies areas are immediately initiated.
- doing informational work for the locals about the right handling of stray animals
- and administering rabies vaccinations to keep a high immunisation rate,
we are establishing the foundation for a long-term reduction of rabies in Lilongwe – so that in the future neither animals nor humans will be the victims of this preventable virus.
Additionally, we are ensuring a long-term improved veterinary care in Malawi in cooperation with the Welttierschutzstiftung through our programme VETS UNITED: The first veterinary cohort in the country, accompanied by VETS UNITED from the start, finished their studies last year and are now strengthening animal welfare in rural parts of the country. Current students, who received a scholarship from the WTS, are volunteering at our rabies project.