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DAGMAR'S MALAWI BLOG

Fri 16th Jun 2017

Our International Veterinary Manager, Dr Dagmar Mayer is in Malawi working in and around the area of Blantyre. Dagmar is supporting our sister charity, Mission Rabies with a mass neuter and sterilisation drive. 

For two weeks a team of two vets and two nurses are working in Zomba alongside the Mission Rabies teams who are vaccinating dogs against rabies all over the city. 

Monique is a vet from Australia, David and Helen are a vet and vet nurse from the UK who gave up their holidays and paid for their own flights, visas, vaccinations etc to help animals who would otherwise never see a vet in their lifetime. Ellie, an amazing nurse from the UK has been in Malawi for more than two months and is by now basically in charge of running the clinic in Blantyre and coordinating the outreach field clinics when we are working outside of Blantyre. Every bit of equipment has its place and there are protocols in place for nearly everything... I wouldn’t recommend messing with her system ;)

There is no qualified veterinarian working in the whole district of Zomba and it’s quite a big district! People can get help from AVOs (Assistant Veterinary Officers) when their dogs get sick but their skills are limited when it comes to surgery. 

That’s why it is particularly motivating for us to work here as the lists of people wanting their dogs sterilized is very long and we need to send quite a few back home every day. Whenever we have to choose which dogs we register we always choose the female dogs over the males and the thin ones rather than the healthy dogs. Especially dogs with TVT (transmissible venereal tumors, transmitted when mating) we are keen to sterilize, so they can't spread the tumors anymore to other dogs. 

Often dogs are sterilized by non-qualified people or people who either weren’t trained in good surgical skills or don’t have the supplies and drugs to perform this surgery appropriately. What we see as a result are dogs whose testicles were cut off without anesthetic or were tied off with a rubber. Eventually these become necrotic and fall off, but only after a very long time of suffering and pain. We also come across dogs with injured legs or big wounds, severe mange and mammary tumors. Every dog gets assessed and we make a decision on what is possible with the limited possibilities in this clinic setup. 

Almost every day the team is setting up the clinic at a different location, on weekends in classrooms of primary schools, during the week we are able to use two rooms at the office of the local AVO . 

The days are very long but everybody is doing a great job, working tirelessly from early in the morning until it gets dark, occasionally the classrooms we are working in are very dark, the floor can be dusty and uneven and at the moment it's winter here in Africa, so the mornings can be very chilly!

So far the team has sterilized almost 200 dogs and each one now has a better chance of a healthy life, especially the females are looking so much better when they don’t have to give birth twice a year, raising puppies again and again. We are also directly supporting the work of our sister charity Mission Rabies as a more stable and healthy vaccinated dog population can sustain vaccination coverage of 70% for longer. 

This is an example of team work at its best: working together to protect people and animals against rabies and to improve the animal welfare the same time.