… because the cause of animal welfare needs people that are committed to it fully
Did you know that in 2015 there were only 30 veterinarians in Malawi to ensure the well-being of 50 million livestock and 1.5 million strays? Not only this: Many of them didn’t even work in the field actively anymore and the rest had either only received lacking veterinary training or no practical experiences in treating animals whatsoever.
But it’s not only Malawi: In numerous developing countries, animal welfare only plays a minor role and as a result, there are neither enough veterinary institutions nor do the existing institutions teach the basics of animal welfare knowledge that would help prepare the students to their daily life in the field.
…that the majority of vets, veterinary personnel and para-vets in 44 developing countries felt that they were not educated sufficiently in the field of animal welfare. More than half additionally stated that practical work experiences had not played a role during their training.
VETS UNITED aims to close this gap
After founding the Welttierschutzstiftung in 2015, we developed the programme VETS UNITED with the goal to work together with universities and colleges to educate already practicing vets, veterinary students as well as veterinary personnel in both theory and practice. Additionally, we want to help people who have a disadvantage due to family or financial circumstances finish their education by offering them scholarships.
>> We enable people to change animals’ lives long-term <<
Our help - both professional and financial – establishes long-term improvements in animal welfare. Within the last five years we have already accomplished significant changes: While the programme started in 2015 with volunteering German vets, we now have experienced project partners in our project countries. These local managers further develop and adopt our courses with regard to the local conditions and are responsible for the implementation of the animal welfare content into the curriculum of local universities, colleges and other educational institutions. Additionally, we finance especially promising up-and-coming veterinary students parts of their studies thanks to our scholarship-programme.
Our successes in Gambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia as well as Malawi and Kenya show that we are on the right path: Animal welfare plays an increasingly bigger role and people – students, practicing veterinarians and lastly animal owners – show more and more interest in ensuring long-term animal welfare conditions.
“In most parts of The Gambia there is little awareness of animal welfare.” »Dr. Kebba Daffeh, project manager for VETS UNITED Gambia
The Gambia is particularly challenging. The whole country only has 15 vets. The people providing some type of veterinary care for the two millions of livestock as well as numerous dogs are so-called ‘personell for animal health’, also known as paravets – who used to work without any knowledge about animal welfare. VETS UNITED developed learning material that ensures that animal welfare is included in the theoretical and practical education of future paravets. Agricultural students of the University of The Gambia as well as students studying animal health and agriculture at Gambia College have been attending lectures given by our local manager Dr. Daffeh. Practical sessions are also conducted together with our long-term partner Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (GHDT).
By now, our lectures are part of the official curriculum in both institutions and the students are thoroughly enjoying the content: the waiting list has grown respectively long. Unfortunately, poverty continues to result in people dropping out. To ensure that especially motivated students are able to finish their degree, we introduced scholarships in 2018/19: Currently we support 10 students in their study, pay their tuition fee as well as accommodation, food and learning material. By joining our scholarship program, the students commit to doing voluntary work on weekends and public holidays. Here they advise animal owners on how to improve the animals’ living conditions and conduct free de-worming and vaccinations sessions. Next to good grades, this type of volunteering work is a requirement to continue to receive their scholarship.
More information: https://welttierschutz.org/en/vets-united/gambia/
“The health of the animals is continuously worsening, animal welfare overall is decreasing. Especially livestock are suffering. Animal welfare barely plays a role.” »David Balondemu, project manager VETS UNITED Uganda
Especially in rural areas in Uganda, paravets are the only way to provide veterinary care for millions of livestock and pets. But their training in animal welfare is insufficient and during their training they either have none or barely any practical sessions. The Ugandan vets, who mainly work to do administrative tasks such as the control of epidemics, of hygiene management or of animal markets, also lack knowledge when it comes to animal welfare as their education also did not include such topics.
Together with our partners Bam Animal Clinics (BAM) and the veterinary faculty of Makerere University in Kampala (CoVAB) VETS UNITED has been closing these knowledge gaps since 2016. Currently at Makerere University, animal welfare lectures and practicals are being conducted regularly. Moreover, our local project manager Dr. Paul Ssuna, who is also employed as a laboratory diagnostics vet at the veterinary faculty, is holding meetings with the higher ups at the university to update the curriculum to always include the animal welfare materials.
Additionally, in 2019 we started the implementation of a new approach for the already practicing vets called “Train the Trainer”. The goal here is to assist already practicing vets in training the paravets working in their area through regular theoretical and practical workshops. As every paravet is responsible for about 6.000 to 8.000 animals, this concept allows us to improve the veterinary care for thousands of animals within a short period of time.
More information: https://welttierschutz.org/en/vets-united/uganda/
„I’m hoping that the people one day realize that the health of animals and animal welfare is connected and cannot exist without one another.” »Abdoulie Ceesay, animal welfare lecturer for VETS UNITED Liberia
60 percent of the people in Liberia work with livestock, every third family owns cattle, sheep, goats or chicken. The care of these animals is often lacking though. For one, there is barely any veterinary personnel (only 20 paravets and four international vets in the whole country), on the other hand, the Liberian paravets barely possess any knowledge on holding, dietary and health requirements of animals as well as animal welfare aspects due to a lack in training. To improve the welfare of the animals long-term, VETS UNITED is working in cooperation with the Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society (LAWCS) to start two projects at two paravet training institutions.
The locations chosen for the project, Cuttington University in Gbarnga and Lofa County Community College in Voinjama, already offer the course ‘animal science’. Aim of our program in Liberia is to teach the paravets animal welfare matters during their training here by providing them with sound theoretical and practical knowledge and this way achieve improved animal care long-term. Once this program has been adapted to the official curriculum at Cuttington University and Lofa County Community College, the aim is to establish cooperations with other educational facilities in the country.
Especially motivated students that are struggling financially and are at risk of leaving their studies, we support with scholarships. 2020 we will support four students who have all committed to do volunteer work in animal welfare in addition to their studies.
More information: https://welttierschutz.org/en/vets-united/liberia/
„There are barely any veterinarians and farmers do not have any knowledge on animal health and protection. We still need to do much more to improve animal welfare in Malawi long-term.” »Madeline Nyamwanza, program manager VETS UNITED Malawi
There are an estimated 50 million livestock and 1.5 million stray dogs in the Southeast African country of Malawi. For the 30 vets that are currently working in the country, there is no way of reaching all these animals. Since 2015, the first veterinary students at Lilongwe University for Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) are being trained in support of the VETS UNITED program. Integrated in the curriculum, there are for example mobile veterinary clinics the students have to conduct regularly to learn important practical experiences. Monitoring and control of learning goals and successes is led by our local project manager Madeline Nyamwanza.
But it is not easy to become a vet as the rate of poverty is very high in Malawi. Many students struggle to finance their studies, which is why we are currently supporting eight veterinary students through scholarships. For these animal welfare motivated students, who would have had to quit their education due to financial reasons, VETS UNITED is paying part of their tuition fee. In return, the students commit to volunteer at local veterinary clinics weekends and on public holidays.
More information: https://welttierschutz.org/en/vets-united/malawi/
“Training is urgently required, as there are many gaps in knowledge of the practising veterinarians in the country when it comes to animal welfare .” »Dr. Jean Claude Masengesho, veterinarian at the New Vision Veterinary Hospital (NVVH) in Ruanda
There are about five million livestock Ruanda and 367 veterinarians to take care of these animals – the majority of these vets, however, actually work in administration and do not practise hands-on veterinary care. Instead, around 1,700 so-called paravets are responsible for the care of the animals, whose training barely contains any animal welfare content. Their expertise as well as practical experiences when it comes to this topic are, as a result, insufficient.
The programme VETS UNITED in cooperation with the New Vision Veterinary Hospital (NVVH) intends to counteract these known animal welfare issues – such as the insufficient veterinary care available or the bad conditions during animal transports – by providing comprehensive and extensive educational training. This two-year pilot project will initially offer these training opportunities for the practising vets and paravets in the country.
Using the concept of “Train the Trainer”, at first, educational staff in the field of animal welfare are trained. They then pass on their newly gained knowledge to their colleagues. In the first year of running this project, 70 veterinarians from five different districts will be coached who will then train private vets as well as the paravets in their region the following year.
“Even when it comes to the teachers, there is a lack of animal welfare knowledge and materials for them to use during a lesson. This is highly problematic as they are the ones that are meant to pass on animal welfare knowledge to their students according to the curriculum.” »Dr. Calvin Solomon Onyango, VETS UNITED Representative East Africa
With more than 15 Kenyan universities and colleges as well as other facilities offering veterinary training for the around 2500 practising vets, Kenya actually is better established when it comes to animal welfare than other countries. Additionally, there is the aim to re-write and update the current animal welfare laws from 1963, and there are already some animal welfare lessons integrated into the curriculum of many universities. Nevertheless, there are still many animal welfare issues, such as bad animal handling, animals not being fed enough and an overall insufficient daily veterinary care. The reason: Because of the lack of animal welfare knowledge of most teachers, the students do not receive the information and training actually required to administer appropriate care. Yet, these students actually are the ones that end up going and helping animal owners all over the country – and could thus massively improve animal welfare long-term when trained correctly!
Because of this, the program VETS UNITED aims to educate and further train staff of five Kenyan universities who teach animal welfare. Per university, two teachers are taking part in our three-day workshops. Within the next two years, the project aims to integrate more mandatory animal welfare content and materials into the national curriculum for all of the 18 Kenyan universities teaching veterinary medicine and/or animal health courses.
“Animal welfare is a big challenge for Zimbabwe and has so far not been perceived an important necessity at all.” Alfred Sihwa, Sibanye Animal Welfare and Conservancy Trust
Zimbabwe’s animal welfare laws have not been updated since 1960 and there are barely any training opportunities offered for vets – which can be clearly seen when looking at all the animal welfare issues in the country. Moreover, only around 140 animal health personnel (so-called paravets) are meant to cover the care of the three million livestock and numerous stray dogs. However, they generally lack even the most basic animal welfare knowledge and experience when it comes to diagnosis and treatment of the animals’ diseases.
Since April 2020, VETS UNITED is improving the educational training in cooperation with the veterinary faculty of the Lupane State University and the Sibanye Animal Welfare Trust, by offering animal welfare modules for the students - with the aim of completely integrating these lessons into the university’s’ curriculum in the future. First, eight of the faculty’s teachers will attend a one-week training on the topic of animal welfare to gain new animal welfare knowledge to pass on to their students. Long-term though, the goal is to introduce these modules to all universities and colleges in Zimbabwe and thus achieve the sustainable improvement of animal welfare in the whole country.
Additional courses have taken part in Sri Lanka and Romania. Projects in Ruanda, Kenya and Zimbabwe are being developed currently. We also offer the VETS UNITED materials online to reach more people and thus help animals worldwide. Interested lecturers from universities and colleges can download the English-written content and use it for their lectures and access the videos and practical exercises related to the content https://welttierschutz.org/en/vets-united/animal-welfare-course/
We are now working on implementing VETS UNITED at more learning institutions to reach even more students
Our goals for 2020 are…..
….the start of VETS UNITED in Ruanda, Kenya and Zimbabwe
…as well as extending the scholarship-programme to Liberia, for example, to support the growing interest in animal welfare.
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