Around 25 miles north of Lilongwe, Malawi, lies the Dzaleka refugee camp, built almost 30 years ago during the Rwanda/Burundi conflict, with a planned capacity for 10,000 refugees. Today most of the refugees come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Somalia, and the camp is home to more than 54,000 people. Most of the inhabitants have come from extreme hardship to a life within the camp that is also plagued by challenges. Water provision is limited, living conditions are inadequate and crime is prevalent.
The people living in the camp and the surrounding areas rely heavily on their animals for their livelihoods. Dogs are common within the camp and are mostly kept as security. Cats are common pets, and many small-scale farms have popped up, with numerous cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, and working donkeys in and around the camp. Rabies is a major concern within the camp, with several human rabies cases reported over the past few years. Dog bites are common, and although post-exposure-prophylaxis (PEP) is available, it is not easily accessible.
Other diseases such as African swine fever, Newcastle’s disease, Foot and Mouth Disease, and various parasitic diseases are a recurring issue within the camp and a serious threat to farmers within the camp who rely on their animals for their livelihoods. Access to veterinary care is limited, and most of the farmers are unable to afford basic treatments.
In February, the WVS Taskforce joined up with our local team and MUTU (a local non-profit organisation run by refugees) to run a targeted outreach programme. The primary focus was to provide rabies vaccines to all the dogs and cats in the Dzaleka camp, whilst also running a dog and cat sterilisation clinic, and providing treatment and support to any livestock present. Providing this veterinary support benefits the animals, stops the spread of deadly diseases, and supports the people who rely on the animals everyday.
The team initially conducted a two-day door-to-door vaccination campaign across the entire camp, successfully vaccinating 526 animals against rabies. The data entered in the WVS app demonstrated good coverage across the camp. A field clinic was then set up in the camp’s recreation hall to offer free sterilisation surgeries to any animals brought in. A total of 115 spay/neuter surgeries were carried out by the team over the course of three days. Free animal husbandry advice was offered for local farmers.
During the campaign, the team were also presented with several animals in need of veterinary treatment, and meetings were held with farmers to offer animal husbandry advice. Working in partnership with MUTU and the Malawi Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development, we hope to provide further support to this community and implement a sustainable solution to improving animal welfare in the camp.
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