In 2020, national elections in Malawi, coupled with an unfolding pandemic, made planning for the annual campaign slightly uncertain. Yet, thanks to the determination of the team, we experienced record-breaking year in Malawi with over 100,000 vaccinations exceeding 70% coverage in every city and rural district. A milestone that has only been achieved once before.
If we had stopped work – like so many others had to – people would have died and rabies would have started to re-emerge in places where it has been banished to the history books. Thanks to the support of our staff, partners, and donors, we were able to power on and save lives.
In 2020 in Malawi, together we:
- Vaccinated 102,375 dogs against rabies to create herd immunity and protect whole communities from disease
- Educated 510,685 children across 575 schools in dog bite prevention and first aid, totalling over two million children in Malawi since we began in 2015.
- Reached 7,633 teachers with our key messages in rabies prevention
- Responded to 3,054 cases of reported dog bites
Surveillance is key
Our rabies surveillance efforts have increased year-on-year, as a result of improved awareness through our Integrated Bite Case Management work. In 2020, 3,054 dog bite cases were reported, allowing us to investigate and respond immediately. Our teams went door-to-door in any area of concern, ensuring that other dog bites hadn’t gone unreported and that the community knew exactly how to seek treatment in the event of a dog bite emergency.
Aiding dogs in need
In the field, the vaccination teams work in synergy with the veterinary team from Worldwide Veterinary Service to aid sick and injured dogs. We reported between 5 and 10 dogs to the clinic each week during our vaccination campaign, which the vets treated and cared for on top of their usual caseloads. TVTs (Transmissible Venereal Tumours) were the most common concern. This is a potentially fatal cancer, which dogs develop if they mate with an infected dog. In 2020, we helped 44 dogs receive crucial treatment for TVTs.
Most victims of rabies are under the age of 16. In Malawi, a large part of the population is youthful – 46% of the population is under 14, while 67% is under 24. With primary school attendance at 93% in Malawi, our rabies prevention programme focused on schools is saving countless young lives. In 2020, we reached over 500,000 children in Malawi, and have reached over two million children in just five years
Helping outside the classroom
Only 33% of secondary school-age children in Malawi attend school – and the pandemic is only making things worse. Whilst schools were closed and many community events were suspended, our Education Officers took to the streets to reach 242,509 people through door-to-door and household visits, using methods approved by the World Health Organization. Through our work with youth groups and churches, we reached a further 65,500 people in both urban and rural areas.
Reaching new at-risk people
Whilst schools were closed, we produced and aired a radio drama that reached an audience of 4.2 million people. It covered all our key messages, including the importance of vaccinating dogs and the misconceptions around rabies post-exposure treatment.