Since the start of August 2017, Mayhew Afghanistan’s mass canine rabies vaccination programme in the capital city, Kabul, has been in full swing and making great progress. As of the end of January 2018, the team had reached our vaccination target in five separate districts and have been working in two other districts and have vaccinated a total of 4,084 dogs. Our original dog survey carried out in 2015 showed there are around 15,000 dogs in the city.
The programme will cover the main 16 residential districts in the city. The first districts targeted included residential areas, commercial areas, areas where there are tented communities of refugees and migrants and areas including the cemeteries up in the hills where the dogs accumulate.
Each day the team of 12 dog catchers work from early morning around 5 am to around noon, catching and vaccinating dogs. The surveyor then goes out the following morning to the previous day’s area to check the number of vaccinated dogs has reached the level of at least 70% of the population, the threshold to break the spread of the rabies virus chain. If the collated data shows that less than 70% of dogs in that area have been vaccinated, the dog-catching team return until a minimum of 70% of dogs are vaccinated in that area. Towards to end of January, Mayhew Afghanistan received a call about a dog in district 15 that was biting people. The team went there straightaway, caught the dog suspected of being rabid and carried out a concentrated vaccination drive in the district. The team also went around the local community raising awareness of the situation and giving advice on what to do and who to contact if they are concerned.
Reaction of local people, Kabul Municipality and Government
Local people were at first not aware of the programme and as we are using some of the same Kabul Municipality dog-catchers who poisoned the dogs as part of the culling process, initially some members of the public were afraid the teams were coming to kill the dogs. However, Mayhew Afghanistan personnel are fully versed in the rationale behind the project and were able to explain about the dog-catching team and the vaccination programme. Together with a local government social media campaign and backing from President Ashraf Ghani, this helped to allay their concerns and the Mayhew vehicle and teams are now welcomed by the public.
It has been surprising how many ‘owned’ dogs are coming forward for vaccination, which the team is also carrying out free of charge. The owners of the dogs are provided with a vaccination card and out of the total number of dogs that have been vaccinated so far, 863 have been owned dogs. In addition, one of the Kabul Municipality dog catchers working in the team fell in love with one of the street dogs and has since adopted it.
Dr Mohammadzai DVM has been in contact with the Zoonotic Control Committee, a government agency comprising the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Public Health and WHO/OIE. The mass rabies vaccination programme and our statistics will comprise part of the Zoonoses strategy for Afghanistan and we are awaiting the latest available statistics on canine-mediated rabies deaths and PEP distribution from them.
A second team of dog-catchers from Kabul Municipality staff will be recruited and trained, so that there can be two teams working simultaneously in the city, increasing coverage. The new team will start in February 2018 and then a new dog survey can be factored in to track our progress.
Mayhew International receives no government funding and relies on the generous donations from our supporters to continue our life-saving work for both animals and humans around the world.
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