27 September 2019 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS continues its fight against rabies in Myanmar with a mass vaccination project. After a successful pilot project in 2018, the organisation committed to vaccinating one million animals by 2022. Within the first four months since the mass vaccination programme started, in June 2019, the teams on-site vaccinated over 50,000 animals, covering multiple areas in Yangon region and Nay Pyi Taw Union Territory. In light of World Rabies Day on 28 September, FOUR PAWS and Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) are hosting a World Rabies Day Event in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw.
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 is working tirelessly to bring about a long-term change that benefits both human and animal wellbeing and reduces the death count to zero. During the World Rabies Day Event, FOUR PAWS hopes to raise awareness about rabies and its prevention not only with the public but in particular, law and decision-makers. It is their support that will ensure all efforts to eradicate rabies until 2030 and beyond will be sustainable, fuelled by a better understanding of the disease and its prevention in the country.
“Our vaccination project started out successfully, and we are aiming for many more ambitious months to come. It’s a tough goal, but we are fully committed and optimistic that we will achieve change in Myanmar, for the sake of both people and animals. If dogs are vaccinated against rabies, humans will not suffer from the disease anymore. Only with public and political support can we achieve the highest possible impact and finally make rabies history.”
FOUR PAWS vet Dr Marina Ivanova, who is leading the project in Myanmar.
Awareness and education are crucial for lasting change
After having implemented the mass vaccination programme, FOUR PAWS now provides the first 500,000 vaccines as well as international experts and necessary equipment for catching, tagging and data collection. Additional to the work in the field, educational campaigns raise awareness for the disease and the proper treatment of animals. Such campaigns are as crucial as the vaccinations themselves, as false beliefs about rabies, fear and desperation frequently lead to brutal animal culling that does nothing to slow down the spread of rabies.
Zero rabies deaths by 2030
Myanmar achieved a first important milestone in support of the WHO’s worldwide goal of stopping the transmission of rabies from dogs to humans by adopting its first National Plan on Rabies Elimination in Dogs. The successful implementation of the plan will require a long-term commitment from all stakeholders to achieve Myanmar’s goal of eradicating rabies once and for all by 2030. 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 because rabies is 100% preventable by vaccination.