Teaching Rabies Prevention in Tanzania

Post by

Jaigar O'Neill

March 22nd 2021

Education is a crucial part of our work.

Lack of knowledge is a key reason why people die from rabies, so alongside our vaccination work, we run lifesaving education programmes. With 40% of rabies cases occurring in children under 15, those most at risk must be taught how to avoid dog bites, and the critical steps to take if they are bitten.

2021 Programme

We kicked off 2021 with a vaccination and education campaign in Tanzania. In the Meru District, we recruited six Education Officers, all of which had worked with us in previous years, to deliver our rabies prevention lessons. They all received refresher training before separating into teams and beginning the programme. Each team visited two schools per day, tutoring its students and teachers on dog bite prevention and first aid, and the importance of vaccinating their pets against rabies. The teams had handouts about our upcoming vaccination programme ready, encouraging those with dogs at home to bring them along to receive a free vaccine.

In the same campaign last year, the team were able to increase the number of schools they visited from 31 to 57. In 2021, they bettered themselves again, reaching 65 primary schools in the Meru District. It meant that they reached a total of 27,132 children and 712 teachers with our key messages – everything from the seriousness of rabies to understanding dog behaviour to remembering the critical first aid steps if bitten.

It wasn’t just our team who were thrilled with the campaign’s results. The feedback from teachers was incredibly positive. One Headmaster kindly shared her thoughts with us and said, “Thanks so much Mission Rabies for this amazing and great lesson. We are all happy to have you in our school because we have many dog bites in our community, but now we know how to handle it.”

Life-saving Lessons

During the lessons, we asked the students about their relationships with dogs. We discovered that half of the students (13,449 children) owned a dog and 2.2% of them have been bitten (599 children), whilst 7.12% of children have a relative who has been bitten (1,933 children). This highlights how important rabies prevention is to these children. We’re equipping them with the knowledge to not only protect themselves from disease, but their families and wider communities. 

Community Engagement

On top of our education programme, we recruited two Sensitisation Officers to assist us with the campaign in Tanzania. Their job was to spread the word about our vaccination work before it began. They did this by putting up posters in communal areas and speaking with local veterinary officers and pet owners, encouraging them to attend our upcoming clinics.

As a result, we had a great turnout at the clinics. In a short two-week period in January, we managed to vaccinate 7,703 dogs against rabies.

When receiving a rabies vaccination for their pet, we asked owners how they heard about our vaccination clinics. We learned that the majority of owners had heard about it through school announcements (50.4%), followed by posters (26.3%) and word of mouth (15.1%). This shows the importance of work to engage the communities in which we work, through school visits, advertising materials, and engaging the local people. It’s only by working together that we can eliminate rabies, for good.

Donate today, and help us empower children and families with the life-saving knowledge they need.