Being out in the field for most of her time working at Mission Rabies projects around the world, our International Projects Manager Jordana recently returned from Uganda, where we - together with the Big Fix Uganda - set up a project in the remote Gulu area. The successful launch vaccination drive now serves as a prime example that mass vaccination campaigns in remote rural areas are feasible. But let Jo explain it herself:
"For the first Mission Rabies project in Uganda, our partner charity The Big Fix Uganda had approached us about the possibility of running a vaccination campaign in partnership to which we couldn’t say no. After months of preparatory work, the programme finally started at the end of July. Before my arrival, the Big Fix Uganda had carried out plenty of sensitisation work to make people aware that we would be coming to their villages to vaccinate their dogs as well as visiting schools to educate children about rabies and how to get along with dogs.
My first week I spent in Kampala meeting people involved with the Big Fix and briefing others who would be joining me in the north for our programme. Staff and students of Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity also attended a joint training session to give them an overview of the work they were about to undertake. It was amazing to see so many students dedicated to animal welfare, taking up active roles in rabies elimination.
Leaving Kampala I journeyed up to Gulu - only a quick 7 hour car ride away. Here I met the fabulous Big Fix team and together we made sure everything was ready for the start of our big campaign. In total we were a team of about 35, including staff of the Big Fix, staff and students from Makerere University, people who live in the region and can speak the local language and some amazing drivers. There are over 40 different languages spoken in Uganda with region having its own language, so it was vitally important to have local team members who could be our communicators. However I think we all learnt a few of the most important words in Acholi (the local language) before the end of the week, such as “Is your dog a male or a female?”
We were working in a sub-county called Koch Goma, an area that borders Murchison Falls National Park - a region with an increased number of dog bite cases and suspected rabies cases in 2014. This being a very rural area meant that our vaccination points were located in villages connected by rather poor roads, some of which would have been impossible to pass after it rained. Unfortunately for us it rained quite heavily the evening before our first day of vaccinating and my team were to go to one of the more remote villages. We passed some of the worst roads people had seen - we got stuck a few times and once had to get out to push the vehicle out of the mud! That wasn’t our only obstacle, as on day one, we also had to cross a river and were blocked by a fallen tree. Fortunately our driver was amazing and managed to get us past all these obstacles unscathed! After this everything else was easy.
All 6 teams worked brilliantly, some days we were inundated with people and their pets and other days were a little bit slower. However every day we were welcomed by all members of the community and sometimes also by livestock; it wasn’t unusual for a chicken to try to get involved with the team. In total we managed to vaccinate over 6,000 companion animals in just 6 days, which is rather impressive for such a rural area and is a result of all the hard work by all members of the team. I had a fabulous time in Uganda, met some amazing dedicated people, vaccinated a lot of dogs and had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to go back and continue our efforts in the area."