Dr. Paul Ssuna
Project Manager Uganda
Growing up around an uncle who was an animal health practitioner in the local community, helped Paul Ssuna understand early on the affect animals can have on people and inspired him to pursue a carrier working with animals. As a graduate of veterinary medicine from Makerere University, Ssuna has been working as our VETS UNITED project manager in Uganda since March 2018, coordinating the animal health and welfare traineeships for students of ‘Veterinary Medicine’, ‘Animal Production’, ’Wildlife Health and Management’ and ‘Livestock Industry and Business’ at Makerere University.
Area: 241,040 km²
Inhabitants: approx. 34.5 million
Official language: English and Swahili
About 68 million farm animals, thereof
Cattle: 14.36 million
Goats: 15.31 million
Sheep: 4,307 million
Pigs: 4,037 million
Poultry: 46.29 million
There are about 670 registered vets, but only a few of them carry out practical work.
Most of the 1,500 paravets are insufficiently trained.
WTG: What do you enjoy most about your work as VETS UNITED Project Manager and where do you see the biggest challenges in your work?
PS: I am based at the university, I enjoy working with students. There are always opportunities to learn from the students experiences as they come from different parts of the country. I get to read more about animal welfare, which boosts my understanding of the concept and stimulates innovation to improve the status quo. We are supported through the VETS UNITED program to reach out to poor communities as we train our students. In these reach out activities, we help the poor with vaccinations and sterilizations. This gives me joy because we are able to impact the community. Ensuring 100% students’ participation can be challenging, considering that some have different perceptions about the welfare of animals either due to their cultures or community beliefs.
WTG: How would you describe the animal welfare situation in the country?
PS: The animal welfare situation is not improving but at the same time also not deteriorating. As regards to legislation, we follow an old prevention of cruelty act of 1963. This act has not been revised, meaning that the penalties are no longer deterrent. Livestock welfare concerns are still many on the farm level, during transportation and slaughter. The welfare for pets is improving in urban areas due to the many education campaigns and better economic standards were by owners can afford vaccines and basic treatment for their animals. In the rural areas, it’s worse because most people have no access to animal welfare knowledge and also most are live below a dollar a day, so they cannot afford the basic needs for their pets which they use during hunting, security and companionship.
WTG: What are your hopes for the Animal health and welfare situation in the country in 5 to 10 years?
PS: I hope that the curriculum for animal science programs in the different institutions will consolidate the VETS UNITED online resource which is well enriched and comprehensive for use in training of their students. I also hope that the laws will be revised and updated so that the offences are well described and the penalties are deterrent. Then, the law will be applicable in the current as well as future generation to ensure responsible ownership and use of the animals.
I also hope that through the continued education initiatives, the attitude of the communities will change towards treating animals with empathy and sympathy. Already, a student’s club was formed as a result of the added learning material. It is great to see that the students continue with animal welfare activities outside of class. The activities of the club include rabies vaccination campaigns around the university and training sessions on animal care and handling for the pets of fellow students.