By Judith Sibanda
AWARE Trust Zimbabwe (ATZ), has vaccinated and sterilised over 2 000 rural dogs in Tsholotsho and Chipinge in the first quarter of the year, with most of the canines suffering from rabies.
This comes at a time when there have been media reports indicating a critical shortage of the rabies vaccine in Matabeleland.
Rabies is a highly fatal viral infection of the nervous system that affects all warm-blooded animal species, including humans.
Once the symptoms of rabies develop in animals or humans, there is no cure and the disease is fatal.
Annually, rabies is said to kill 50 000 people worldwide.
According to a 2013 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, In Zimbabwe, the dog accounts for about 45 percent of all animal rabies cases.
ATZ, said they have since intensified their efforts in an effort to contain the spread of rabies.
“In the first quarter of 2019, the team has notched up 2612 vaccinations and 212 sterilisations,” the non-governmental animal welfare trust revealed.
“In January, our team was in Tsholotsho, but in February and March, they were in Chipinge. We’re working on the ground, so when the notorious Cyclone Idai made landfall, Chipinge adjacent to Chimanimani which bore the brunt of the storm and was completely cut off.
“Many homesteads and crop fields were damaged in and there was a report of some livestock being swept away at Kondo but despite this, the team did not see any cyclone-related injuries in any animals.”
In addition, last year ATZ said Tsholotsho district, south of Hwange National Park – saw a vaccination of 11 942 and of the total number, 9 697 dogs (81.20%) suffered from rabies.
“Additionally the team vaccinated 975 out of a target of 1003 dogs in Chipinge (97.21%) with both rabies and 5n1 vaccine, bringing the grand total of the project to 10,672 vaccinated dogs. All of these dogs were de-wormed, and severe flea/tick/lice infestations were treated.”
During the same time period 807 dogs of which 77 were in Chipinge, were spayed and castrated and an additional 552 dogs handed pro-bono medical surgery.
“This has prevented a huge number of unwanted litters. Few people realise that it’s really not a dog’s life in rural Zimbabwe – the average life expectancy of a dog with no veterinary interventions in Zimbabwean communal lands is 1,1 years.”
Numerous cases of Transmissable Venereal Tumour (TVT) which cause a significant degree of morbidity in rural dogs and malnutrition as they depend on scraps survival are also frequently diagnosed.
The trust has also been conducting awareness campaigns to educate villagers on how to better take care of their dogs.
The economic environment has however made procuring the necessities like fuel and medicines to run an ambulatory veterinary clinic extremely challenging.