Sleeping in the southern hemisphere, vaccinating dogs in the northern hemisphere – our Uganda project was definitely unique!
Kasese Municipality was identified early on in the planning phase of this project as an ideal location for a rabies vaccination drive. There were verbal reports of canine rabies cases in the Rwenzori mountain communities and within the jackal population of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Mission Rabies’ aim was to protect the communities who live in the areas locked between these regions of natural beauty as well as the wildlife that lives within them. Did you know? Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to some of the only tree-climbing lions in the world!
Contact was made with the local District Veterinary Office and plans for the first rabies vaccination project in Kasese district was underway! Before we knew it two Mission Rabies staff and nine international volunteers were driving across the centre of Uganda through vibrant villages and tea plantations, to reach Euphorbia Lodge within Queen Elizabeth National Park which would be our home for the next 10 days.
Our international volunteers were treated to a 40 minute game drive into and out of Queen Elizabeth National Park – staying in a unique position on community ground on the banks of Lake George. Kob, Warthog, Waterbuck, Buffalo and Hippo were common sightings but the volunteers were also lucky enough to see a tree-climbing lion and a few herds of elephant – what a way to lift tired spirits!
The next day the teams drove into Kasese to meet the local vets and vet students who they would be working alongside giving vaccinations to the dogs of Kasese. A briefing was given by the Mission Rabies and District Veterinary Office team covering what rabies is, how it can be prevented, what measures are needed for elimination, alongside practical training on the WVS Data Collection App.
The first two days of the campaign focused on static point vaccination clinics. These involve setting up stationary clinics in key areas across Kasese city and up into the Rwenzori mountains to give owners of dogs the chance to bring their animals for vaccination. This method was especially important in the mountainous regions, where communities were largely inaccessible to our vaccination teams walking door to door. 912 dogs were vaccinated and 72 cats (total 982 animals) over the two static point days across 12 static point locations. The use of the radio and public loudspeaker announcements through local leaders was very important to bring communities together and direct them to the static point locations.
The next phase of vaccination is door-to-door. This method is used especially when we are in a new area and there might be a lower number of dogs brought to the static point clinics. Vaccination teams walk door to door trying to find all the dogs within the area, recording information about the dogs already vaccinated and vaccinating those who didn’t attend static point clinics.
Kasese municipality was split into regions which could be covered on foot over the course of a day. Using the WVS Data Collection App, teams could navigate across their assigned region using either road maps or satellite images of the more rural areas. The Path Tracker function is especially useful, allowing teams to keep track of where they’ve been and plan where they need to go to reach every last dog in the area.
The door to door work is always particularly enjoyed by the international volunteers as it gives a great insight into how the people live in the communities they are working in. The teams are often accompanied by a lot of children, fascinated by the work we are doing and keen to point out all the houses that own dogs. This also gives us an opportunity for some education work, handing out leaflets and talking to the children about dogs and rabies.
We were also able to use the information that our vaccination teams gathered whilst walking door to door to figure out how far people walked to our static point locations. All dogs who came to the static points were given a vaccination card with a code on top. When the dog was re-sighted during the door to door work, this code was recorded into the App, along with the GPS location. This meant we were able to create the below image, showing how far people travelled to static points.
We found that on average, dog owners travelled 893 metres for vaccination, but the furthest distance was a huge 4.55 kilometres across the whole of Kasese city! It is encouraging to see the commitment some owners show to the welfare of their animals.
Once a team has completed a door-to-door region, we send in post-vaccination surveyors to estimate the percentage of vaccination coverage. It is very important that we vaccinate at least 70% of the canine population to ensure herd immunity is established which ensures the protection for the local communities. Our vaccination teams exceeded all expectations by averaging 81.63% vaccination coverage! An incredible result for the team, the project and Kasese!
Household surveys also enable us to refine canine population estimates and gives us more information about the human population. This will enable us to target the right audience with our sensitisation programmes and have the correct amount of logistical supplies to run the campaign efficiently.
We were very fortunate to be partnering with Daktari, an Andorran-based animal welfare charity that has done some brilliant work with companion animals and livestock in Western Kasese. For this project they focused on canine sterilisation using their pop-up clinic. Daktari sterilised 189 animals over just eight days and vaccinated a further 523 animals against rabies.
A total of 2,035 vaccinations were delivered by the Mission Rabies teams, in addition to the 523 given by Daktari leading to a grand total of 2,558 animals vaccinated.
These two-week outreach projects are really important to Mission Rabies to prove that our methods work in a variety of settings and allows us to find new and effective ways of increasing the efficiency of our work. But at the heart of all our projects is the desire to protect communities from this 100% vaccine-preventable disease.