Sitting back at home in Dorset looking out at the rain and the cows grazing in the adjacent field, Mission Rabies, India and all that I have seen over the last two weeks seem to be a long way away. However the ties between Great Britain and India go back hundreds of years and we are still very close in so many ways. Not least Mission Rabies remains very clear in my mind and, I am sure, in the minds of all those who have taken part to date.
What has been achieved during the last month is immense. A team of about 500 people, from both India and 14 other countries, set out to vaccinate 50,000 dogs in 28 days in small selected areas identified to be ‘hot spots’ for the disease. Given the scale of the problem it seems a very limited objective, but in reality it was an incredibly ambitious target about which many had offered their opinion that it could not be done.
As we now know, over 60,000 dogs were vaccinated in that time and we also know, thanks to the technology used, exactly where those dogs are located (see the "Mission Rabies blog 5" video in the gallery). On a map of all India those 60,000 blobs look very insignificant but the achievement of this last month was but to launch a much longer-term project. The result of this frantic month of activity has been multi-fold; not least there exists a vast number of people both trained and experienced in all the skills required for future management work.
So many volunteers from around the world had an adventure and saw the real India, up close and personal, that westerners rarely experience other than as ‘rubber-neckers’ in air conditioned splendour. Many expressed their wish to return which is excellent news for the future of the Mission. I hope also that when they return to their veterinary practices they will spread the word amongst their colleagues.
The Beast, our wonderful mobile veterinary surgery and training centre, arrived in Guwahati in the nick of time for all to see and inspect its impressive interior. The story of its journey is an epic adventure all of its own, told with great humour by Dr Vinay, the WVS (India) vet based at the International Training Centre at Ooty in Tamil Nadu. It has now started its work in Assam and will slowly work its way through India in due course.
The last month has also seen a massive campaign of education about dogs and the disease, considerable engagement with the public about the project and, not least, a great deal of publicity. As a result government support, both national and local, has grown in intensity and various animal welfare organisations around India have come on board in active support.
But this is just the beginning. The team are now evaluating all that has been achieved and are already planning for the future. The work goes on both in India and in the UK.
Above all, the last month has convinced so many people who matter that Mission Rabies can make a significant difference – rabies can be conquered, maybe eventually eliminated, as a prevalent disease throughout India.
- John Gaye, Vice Chairman of Trustees at Dogs Trust