Mozambique: Recovering from a natural disaster

A HEARTBREAKING DISASTER

In early 2019, Mozambique was hit by tropical cyclone Idai, which caused a devastating impact in three waves; flooding, landwash and subsequent drought. It’s estimated that 3,000 km2 of land was affected by the flooding. Over 715,000 hectares of crops were lost underwater, two million animals were dispersed, and more than two-thirds of the existing livestock population were reported missing. Over the subsequent weeks, animals were found up to 40kms from their homes, but sadly many lives – both animal and human – were lost as they fatigued and drowned in the water. Others found on higher ground were stranded, with no access to clean water, shelter or food.

Dr Francesca Compostella, our International Projects Director for Working Animals, attended in the immediate aftermath to set up what is now a long road to recovery.

THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE

In the immediate aftermath, local teams were deployed on small boats to bring the stranded animals food. Where possible, they herded animals across flooded plains to major roads, where help was awaiting. Once there, animals could receive proper veterinary care, but, by this stage, many collapsed from exhaustion. Those that survived were suffering from diarrhoea and breathing issues, as they had been unable to graze or drink clean water, while others succumbed from injuries caused by floating debris.

An ambulatory team of vets was deployed and remained hard at work treating cases and providing surviving animals with a safe, dry space, where they could rest, eat and recover.

THE AFTERMATH

Six months later, Dr Fran returned to Mozambique to work alongside our veterinary team from the university and Ministry of Agriculture, in assessing the situation. What they found was very concerning.

Many surviving animals were still succumbing to lung disease, intestinal parasites and untreated wounds. What's more, the food situation was found to be critical; as all the crops and grazing had washed away. Alongside our local team of vets, Dr Fran began treating a range of animals – donkeys, oxen, cows, goats, pigs, chicken, guinea fowl and farm dogs and cats – with antibiotics, anti-parasitic drugs and vaccines, while cleaning wounds and applying dressings to keep them clean whilst they healed. They distributed food and supplemented the weaker animals’ diets with high-energy local produce, such as oil and beans. Despite their relentless efforts, they reached had less than a tenth of the region in over a week. So, we knew there was still so much more we needed to do.

A LIFE-LINE ON WHEELS

That’s why, with the support of our partners, we established a mobile veterinary clinic. We procured an all-terrain vehicle and packed it with veterinary supplies to transport vets and vet students to where they are needed most. It not only allows the team to treat livestock and other working animals in remote places, but help the next generation of vets prepare to treat animals in the future. And it’s working.

Through veterinary intervention and community education, the team is working hard to disseminate animal welfare knowledge across the county. By showing families how to best care for the animals – everything from how to effectively clean wounds to how to use working harnesses correctly to avoid injuries – we’re providing vital support to animals and people who very much depend on one another.

THE IMPACT OF COVID-19

Like everywhere, Mozambique has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Until recently, there were only a few reported cases so only social distancing measures were in place. This allowed the mobile clinic to continue to deliver emergency care, but all routine work had to be put on hold. The university was closed at the beginning of the outbreak, meaning there were fewer bodies to man the ambulatory operation. This did not defeat our team, who organised an emergency rota and continued to provide assistance to animals in rural communities, while also sharing best practice on how to prevent disease spread amongst community members.

Once all restrictions are lifted, it will be more important than ever to redouble our efforts, as many cases with chronic or less severe conditions will have gone untreated for months. We need to make sure we reach these animals which had already gone through a terrible time post-cyclone last year.

You can help us do this. You can help us provide working and farm animals – as well as the people who rely so heavily on them – with the help they need to recover from these disasters.

If you are able to, please consider making a donation today to support this life-saving work.

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