With our Malawi project launching in just under 4 weeks, Kate, our International Director, went out to India again visiting our project in the city of Ranchi. The success of this project shows how important our work there is and how much of a difference Mission Rabies is making.
Last week I had the opportunity to head over to one of our flagship programmes in north India, based in Ranchi, Jharkhand. This is my third visit to the project since we first launched in September 2013, with a month-long mass vaccination drive that kick-started a three year project with the ultimate aim of eliminating rabies from the city.
In Ranchi, we partnered with a long-standing local animal welfare organisation – HOPE & Animal Trust, who have been working under the direction of our North India Regional Manager, Praveen, for several years on a city-wide animal birth control programme and education drive, supported by Mayhew International. We recruited and trained a team of dog catchers in 2013 to work systematically through the city, targeting at least 70% of the dogs with rabies vaccines each year, and this team are also responsible for responding to any rabies cases – catching the affected dog, arranging for humane euthanasia to prevent further suffering and running diagnostic tests to create a record of the incidence of rabies within the city.
The vaccination team of catchers, Vickram, Subhash, Amit, Utam, Vijay and another Vickram, are led by vet, Dr Saurav. So far, within Ranchi since September 2013, our teams have vaccinated over 36.554 dogs in the city, with surveys taking place to ensure we’ve hit the critical 70% required to prevent the disease spreading. Whilst I was in Ranchi, I spent the day out with the team, walking the streets in search of unvaccinated dogs and in just a few hours they’d vaccinated over 130 dogs – skilfully catching, vaccinating, data collecting, marking and releasing each dog within 60 seconds.
Any unsterilized dogs are placed into the vehicle to return to the clinic for surgery to control the dog population and prevent the birth of unwanted puppies, who often die on the streets. Starting at dawn, before the temperate rose too much, we covered slum areas, walking between small mud huts and under washing lines in search of dogs, we passed dairy farms with tethered buffalo being hand milked and through open market areas and farmland, often with a large crowd of interested children following us!
Thanks to the education and awareness work being done, the local communities welcome the catching team and even help point out where the dogs live.
During 2014, 3 people lost their lives to rabies in this city and we are determined that by wiping out rabies in dogs we can prevent these needless deaths. When we first began working here in 2013, we were picking up around 1 rabid dog a month. Now, with the city-wide programme in full force, we have only diagnosed rabies in 2 dogs in the last 5 months, bringing hope that we can remove the threat of rabies entirely and create a model that other cities around India can replicate."