In the light of World Rabies Day (28th September) international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS announces its new massive project in Myanmar: within three years, FOUR PAWS plans to vaccinate 1,000,000 dogs and cats against rabies. This project reinforces Myanmar's plan to eradicate rabies by 2030. The support is urgently needed in the region. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 1,000 people die as a result of infectious animal bites in Myanmar each year.
FOUR PAWS and Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) plan to start a new era in the fight against rabies. Between 1st February 2019 and 31st December 2021 one million dogs and cats – most of them free roaming – will be vaccinated against the deadly disease. FOUR PAWS will not only support with 500,000 vaccines, providing international experts and necessary equipment for catching, tagging and data collection, but will also be responsible for the implementation of the mass vaccination program. LBVD will provide the remainder of the needed vaccines and secure the human resources on a national level. A team of roughly 100 people is going to carry out the vaccinations in the Nay Py Taw Union Territory, Yangon Region, Mandalay Region, Bago Region and Rakhine State. “Together with the people of Myanmar, we get a step closer to the dream of a rabies-free world – for the sake of humans and animals. It will be a tough and long journey, but it will be worthwhile. I cannot wait to vaccinate animal number one million,” says FOUR PAWS veterinarian and head of the project Dr Amir Khalil.
Two successful pilot projects in 2018
Together with LBVD as well as local and international veterinarians, FOUR PAWS tested the water with two pilot projects in Myanmar in March and May 2018. The team vaccinated 59,058 animals in 516 villages and the main towns in the Townships of Lewe and Nyaung-U, both located in the Mandalay Region. FOUR PAWS flanked its efforts in the field with an additional education and awareness campaign in the region. “Raising awareness for the disease and the proper treatment of animals is as crucial as the vaccinations themselves. Many people falsely believe that stray animals tend to be more aggressive during the hot season and therefore, need to be killed before it starts. We want stop rabies but also the unnecessary and brutal culling of these animals. That is why we keep the educational part of the campaign running,” says FOUR PAWS vet Dr Marina Ivanova, who is also leading the project in Myanmar.
Zero rabies deaths by 2030
Myanmar supports WHO's worldwide goal of stopping the transmission of rabies from dogs to humans from 2030 onwards. The starting situation, however, is not an easy one. According to LBVD, of the estimated four million dogs in the country, 70% of them are assumed to be strays. In 2017, nearly 62,000 people were bitten by dogs; 40% of those bitten were children under the age of fifteen. About 1,000 of these bites turned deadly as a result of rabies infections – but there is hope. “We are happy to strengthen our partnership with Myanmar because the dream of a world without rabies is a realistic and feasible one. With only one Euro we get one animal rabies-free which already helps us getting closer to the eradication of rabies deaths,” says FOUR PAWS president and founder Heli Dungler.