VSF International contribution to rabies elimination
Rabies is a neglected zoonotic disease that causes an estimated 59,000 human deaths every year, with 40% of the victims being children. Rabies affects the most vulnerable populations: most cases are found in Africa and Asia, and 80% of cases occur in rural areas. Rabies virus transmission is mainly through a bite or direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with saliva of an infected animal. Dogs are responsible for 99% of human cases. Eliminating rabies in dogs is therefore the key to achieving elimination of human rabies.
The economic burden of the disease is estimated at 8.6 billion USD annually. This occurs despite the availability of anti-rabies vaccines for both animals and humans, which are critical in supporting eradication efforts. Rabies is almost 100% preventable through the administration of safe, effective and extensively available vaccines for humans and animals. However, mortalities are mainly attributed to high treatment costs or lack of access to post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is coupled with the majority of victims exposed to the virus being unaware of the dangers posed by the disease or lacking access to basic medical care.
VSF International is supporting rabies eradication efforts in its areas of intervention, and promotes a holistic approach based on One Health, integrating human, animal and environmental health. Mass vaccination of dogs coupled with population control measures, prompt dog bite management, community education and outreach, improvements in reporting, diagnosis and surveillance are among the key strategic approaches to rabies eradication adopted by the VSF International network.
By working closely with the communities, key government line ministries and counterpart agencies and institutions, we have been supporting eradication efforts in South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Algeria, Morocco, India, Cambodia, the Czech Republic and Canada.
OUR IMPACT IN 2021
In 2021 we implemented rabies control projects in Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, India, Czech Republic and Canada’s Northern territories:
Dogs and cats vaccinated
Dogs neutered to control stray dog populations
Households reached in rabies awareness campaigns
Public health and veterinary professionals trained in rabies control
Community-based Animal Health Workers trained in rabies control
Since 2006, we have vaccinated at least 340,800 dogs and cats and reached over 80,100 people (including school children) through awareness and sensitization messaging on rabies prevention, control and animal welfare. This is in addition to capacity building and training of 3,200 animal health and public health professionals on rabies control and animal welfare.
Rabies vaccination campaigns also represents an opportunity to support dog deworming campaigns, which have been critical in preventing the spread of zoonotic parasites such as echinococcus. This is in addition to the use of Trap, Neuter and Return strategy that has played a key role in controlling stray dog and cat populations and reducing the risk of rabies and other disease transmission.
VSF International strives to continue working with other key stakeholders and governments through the Stepwise Approach to Rabies Elimination (SARE) in supporting eradication efforts. This is in line with the global call for action against rabies to achieve zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. This will be done by scaling up our interventions and building up on successes of previous actions, lobbying for national and regional commitments, resource mobilization, information sharing, coordination, surveillance, mass dog vaccination campaigns, community engagement and outreach.
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