International animal protection organisation FOUR PAWS has launched its new major project in Myanmar: to vaccinate 50,000 stray dogs against rabies in 267 villages around the capital Naypyidaw.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 1,000 people die as a result of infectious dog bites in Myanmar each year. The ambitious pilot project implemented by a team of approximately 50, including local and international veterinarians and authorities, will reinforce Myanmar's plans to eradicate rabies by 2030.
As is common in many countries, authorities often kill stray dogs because of the fear of rabies and lack of available information. FOUR PAWS has started a mass vaccination program together with local and international authorities in Myanmar to stop the unnecessary murder of strays and to save the lives of humans threatened by infectious bites.
"Vaccinating 50,000 stray dogs against rabies is an ambitious but much-needed start. With our campaign, we want to show Myanmar and other countries in Southeast Asia that the brutal killing of free-roaming dogs is not a solution in rabies control. Only regular vaccinations of dogs protect people and animals against life-threatening rabies infections in the long term."
Dr Amir Khalil, FOUR PAWS veterinarian and Project Leader
50 people for 50,000 dogs
Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department, the local University of Veterinary Science, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as well as the local NGO 'Mingalar Myanmar' support the FOUR PAWS mission. In total, around 50 people are deployed in 267 villages around the capital, Naypyidaw. FOUR PAWS has trained the local teams in sustainable rabies prevention, the proper handling of strays, and safe dog-catching techniques. Additionally, visits to the affected communities and the ongoing FOUR PAWS campaign, 'Don’t Wait, Vaccinate!', have already created heightened awareness in the region with the aim of encouraging residents to bring local dogs to the mobile veterinary clinics.
Dr Marina Ivanova, a FOUR PAWS vet, recently joined the project team in Myanmar.
"Many people falsely believe that stray dogs tend to be more aggressive during the hot season and therefore should be killed before it starts. In fact, most of the strays live peacefully with people – they belong to the communities. The residents regularly feed and play with them. That is why the dogs are very trusting.”
Dr Marina Ivanova, FOUR PAWS veterinarian
Zero rabies deaths by 2030
Myanmar supports WHO's worldwide goal of stopping the transmission of rabies from dogs to humans by 2030. The starting situation is not easy, though. According to Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department, there are an estimated four million dogs in the country – seventy percent of them are probably strays. In 2017, nearly 62,000 people were bitten by dogs, forty percent of them were children under the age of fifteen. About 1,000 of these bites were fatal due to rabies infection.
"Our project not only saves the lives of dogs, but also of many people. We hope to make an example followed by many other countries. In any case, we are laying the foundation for a rabies-free future with our campaign in Myanmar,” said Dr Khalil.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in 12 countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au