We started 2021 with a big win in the global fight against rabies.
In January, we successfully ran our sixth mass annual vaccination drive in Tanzania. Alongside volunteers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand, we vaccinated 8,932 animals - 7,703 dogs and 1,229 cats - in just 12 days to protect the dog and human population from this deadly disease.
In Tanzania alone, an estimated 1,500 people die from rabies every year. However, the true burden of the disease is not properly understood because rabies disproportionately impacts people who are already vulnerable. Most victims cannot afford access to healthcare facilities and therefore die at home, resulting in rabies being widely underreported.
With the support from our dedicated international and local volunteers, we plan to change this.
Vaccinating dogs to save human lives
To vaccinate enough dogs to protect people - 70% of the population - we require an army of passionate and driven volunteers from veterinary and non-veterinary backgrounds. Together, vaccination teams are formed - running clinics across the region to ensure they reach this vital percentage.
The teams also collect data on every dog vaccinated, enabling methods to be adapted to increase efficiency, whilst also contributing to an improved understanding of rabies globally. Post-vaccination surveys are carried out to determine whether 70% of the local dog population is reached, with teams being re-deployed where necessary to ensure this crucial threshold for herd immunity is met.
Alongside the vaccination work, our local Education Officers deliver life-saving rabies prevention lessons in schools and community groups across the region.
Mitigating the risk of COVID-19
Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization has singled out rabies prevention efforts as an essential service. This year's annual vaccination campaign will ensure continued protection for the local communities in this area. In light of the current pandemic, there were strict health and safety protocols in place throughout the project to ensure teams worked in a COVID-secure way. This involved daily health checks and following WHO guidelines on social distancing, wearing of facemasks, and personal hygiene throughout the work.
Our most successful campaign yet in Tanzania
This year our teams delivered a record number of vaccinations - a huge achievement in the current climate and a giant step forward in easing the heavy burden the disease has placed on the communities living within the District.
For the last six years, we've worked in collaboration with our partner charity Mbwa Wa Africa to deliver and expand our mass vaccination drives across Meru District in North-East Tanzania. Since our successful pilot campaign - where two wards were covered in two weeks - we have worked hard to increase efficiency, expanding our efforts to vaccinate across 12 wards. Our project regions span a varied terrain, including rural and urban areas on flat ground and in the foothills of Mount Meru - Africa's fifth tallest mountain.
You can volunteer with us too
Not only would our large-scale projects be impossible without the support of volunteers, but the energy and enthusiasm they bring inspires us all. Whether they're helping us with data collection, vaccinations, or marking of dogs - every single aspect of our projects is just as important and vital as the next.
Click here to find out on how you can volunteer with us.