Sunday, 14 Apr 2024

Dogs Trust aims to save children's lives with rabies vaccination programme

A team of more than 100 vets and volunteers is aiming to vaccinate 100,000 dogs in just ten days to help fight rabies in Cambodia.

Mission Rabies, a project of the international charity Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) which has recently merged with Dogs Trust, will run the mass vaccination campaign in the country’s capital Phnom Penh.

Although eradicated in the UK, rabies kills around 59,000 people every year worldwide. Cambodia has one of the highest rabies death rates per capita, primarily caused by infected dog bites.

Mass canine vaccination programmes have previously been shown to effectively control the disease, and Mission Rabies aims to cover 70% of the city’s dog population, starting on May 22.

‘In Cambodia, the reality of rabies is a tragic one,’ said Mission Rabies and WVS founder and CEO Dr Luke Gamble. 

‘Statistically, children die of canine transmitted rabies every week in Phnom Penh, and annually, approximately 600,000 people in the country are bitten by dogs. The lack of awareness about this deadly disease means that many bitten individuals do not receive the post-exposure treatment they need, leaving them with no chance for survival once symptoms appear. 

‘This has to stop.’ 

Mission Rabies began work in Cambodia in 2019, running a pilot vaccination campaign and launching an education programme. Its 24-hour surveillance team responds to reports of rabid dogs and ensures anyone bitten receives immediate post-exposure treatment. 

Its rabies hotline allows members of the public to report rabid dog sightings and seek support for any rabies emergencies.

‘We know that vaccinating dogs is the key to eliminating rabies and that’s why we’re undertaking our largest and most ambitious vaccination drive yet – to vaccinate 100,000 dogs in ten working days,’ said Dr Gamble. 

‘We’re grateful to have the support of MSD Animal Health, and all those who are backing this project. Together, we’re working towards our shared goal of eliminating human rabies deaths by 2030. 

‘Let’s make a difference and protect the lives of both people and dogs in Cambodia.’

The charity has its own bespoke app to efficiently deliver vaccines on a large scale. Vaccination figures and information about each dog is collected to help with rabies and dog population research, and to ensure the campaigns are effective and measurable.

‘Rabies causes immense suffering for people and animals in Cambodia,’ said Dr Amy Nicole Lewis, international project manager at WVS/Mission Rabies and part of the team delivering the project.

‘This is by far the biggest rabies vaccination project run ever before in the country and it will protect many lives. 

‘Since our pilot project in 2019, we have been delivering vital rabies surveillance and education projects, and we are very excited to be able to expand our work to a province-wide vaccination campaign. By working with government partners and key local stakeholders, we not only ensure the success of the project, but also its sustainability.’

Owen Sharp, CEO of Dogs Trust and chairman of WVS/Mission Rabies added: ‘This is a truly inspirational project to be a part of and through our recent charity merger, we are in a strong united position to make a transformational difference to dog welfare as well as people across the world. 

‘I have no doubt that this will be a successful project from the expertise and dedication from Worldwide Veterinary Service and Mission Rabies along with the local Cambodian partners, and I’m excited to see how our work will expand even further in the coming years.’

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