VETS UNITED in The Gambia
Ambassadors for animal welfare
From an animal welfare point of view, The Gambia is a real challenge. Throughout the whole country, there are only a handful of vets who take care of the animals. Especially in rural areas with many livestock farms veterinary paraprofessionals (paravets) take care of the animals. Yet their training does not prepare them well enough for this task. Therefore, within the scope of our programme VETS UNITED, we have developed a curriculum on animal welfare to improve the skills and animal welfare awareness of animal health professionals in the future.
Background: The Gambia, Africa
Area: 11.295 km²
Inhabitants: approx. 1.85 million
Official Language: English
Ranked 152nd out of 175 on poverty ranking list
approx. 446.000 goats and sheep
approx. 41.000 donkeys and horses
Hardly any trained vets in the country, no university training for vets and not enough veterinary professionals
The state of animal welfare in The Gambia
Tourists know and love Gambia as the “smiling coast” of Africa. However, the smallest African state is one of the poorest countries worldwide. People depend on animals, especially in rural areas. Donkeys and horses help with agricultural tasks, dogs guard houses, goats and cows provide food.
Due to extreme environmental conditions like heat, lean pastures and great distances to water sources, the animals have to work really hard. Many animals suffer from malnutrition, parasites, untreated injuries and illnesses. However, veterinary treatment is denied to them in most cases. The problem: In all of Gambia, there is no university training for veterinarians, and the few vets who are working in the country have settled mostly in the more modern coast regions. The paravets, who care for the animals in villages, are responsible for all agricultural aspects from crop cultivation to a sick goat. However, they lack sound training in animal health and welfare.
A milestone for animal welfare
In close cooperation with Gambian vet Dr. Kebba Daffeh and the Gambia University, we have developed an educational programme for animal welfare and health. The course includes 15 modules and covers not only theory and case studies, but also several practical exercises.
Since the 2016 winter semester, university students of the agricultural faculty at the University of The Gambia, as well as students of animal health and agriculture at the Gambia College have been attending lectures held by Dr. Daffeh, who works as local coordinator for VETS UNITED. Our range of courses helps students gain professional know-how, as well as practical abilities and enhances their skills as experts of animal welfare and health.
The course schedule is diverse. It includes basic knowledge about animal welfare (five freedoms), the assessment of the state of health and an analysis of national law on animal welfare. It also covers the subject matters of wound care, bacteriology, parasites, most common local infections and more.
At both institutes, the new subject is very popular with the students. On the whole, there are 66 participants in the first semester. This means 66 prospective paravets, who will one day be responsible for animal’s health and welfare in The Gambia.
Practice, practice, practice
The practical course units are carried out with our local partner of many years, the “Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust”. The team has supported us since our first assignment in The Gambia and is working with us towards more animal welfare and better animal health care.
Theoretical contents of the course modules, which change weekly, can be put into practice under professional guidance at our partner organisation’s donkey hospital, which is only 5 kilometres from the university. This way, the students improve their skills and gain confidence in general veterinary examinations, differentiated diagnosis’s of illnesses and emergency care.