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Ebola and The Last Vet In Sierra Leone

Mon 22nd Dec 2014

For one vet, working through one of the deadliest viruses known to man is no deterrent to saving dogs....

When the stability of your country is under the threat of the Ebola virus, unfortunately international animal welfare can take a back seat. Despite being one of the very few vets in Sierra Leone, Dr Gudush Jalloh is dedicating himself to the welfare of dogs in the country. Thankfully, WVS are able support Dr Jalloh through sending him veterinary supplies that are essential to their welfare.

Over the years WVS supported Dr Jalloh by sending teams of vets to Freetown just prior to the outbreak. As news reports give grave numbers of the human toll of the Ebola virus in West Africa, (an estimated 7,388 deaths according to the WHO) Dr Jalloh is still tirelessly working with abandoned animals with his organisation, SLAWS or Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society, located in the capital, Freetown. 

Dr Jalloh's family were traditionally nomadic cattle herders of the Fula tribe, but he trained to become a vet in Moscow. It was when his brother died after being bitten by a rabid dog that a young Gudush Jalloh was determined to become a vet. He now lives and works in the capital city, Freetown where he has started a vaccination programme to keep the population of stray dogs under control. But since the outbreak of Ebola in March 2014 working has become extremely difficult under quarantined areas, mass panic, and the risk of infection.

He told us;

"This (the virus) has resulted in serious socio-economic break down. Most activities have halted, the medical system is not working well. People are dying not only as result of Ebola but also from other treatable health problems due to lack of attention. People are afraid of reporting illness as so not to be identified as infected, as there similar signs and symptoms to other diseases."

But the impact on animals is also critical. As a vet he is fighting against misinformation that dogs are transmitting the disease. As a result to this dogs are being slaughtered.

In the climate of fear, the dogs of a village nurse who was diagnosed with the disease were all butchered. People are resorting to killing scores of dogs to prevent transmission of the virus by the dog.

Due to the panic, dogs are being left to roam and are not being quarantined as they previously were. There are a huge number of stray street dogs in Sierra Leone, around 250 000. This is creating a wider knock-on effect with rising rabies reports. Infected dog bites can be fatal to humans without the right treatments. Previously WVS was able to assist Dr Jalloh with rabies vaccinations, treating stray dogs in outreach clinics before the outbreak in March. Now WVS continue to supply him with parcels of antibiotics, surgical gloves, syringes and bandages amongst other life saving supplies.

"We are also worried about a massive rabies outbreak. And in this situation all animals are affected indirectly or directly. We are trying to get to communities talking to people. The situation is slowly getting better, but it is very unpredictable, one day seems good then the other seems bad. We can’t do a lot of traveling, as there are restrictions on travelling if you have to move you must have a pass."

We asked Dr Jalloh if it was hard to make people care about animals in the current situation?

"It is very difficult because when the human situation is compromised. The good thing about this country over the years of work is the perception is changing. There are a lot of organisations helping the human side, but there are no animal organisations on the ground here."

We need your help to keep helping animal welfare heroes like Dr Jalloh. The need for your support is greater then ever. We have a constant demand for veterinary supplies, from treatments and dressings to surgical equipment. Find out if you have supplies we can use. Or you can make a difference by giving either a one-off donation or you can sign up to give regular donations.