On World Rabies Day (September 28), international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has announced that within three years it plans to vaccinate 1,000,000 dogs and cats against rabies in Myanmar to save animals and humans alike from a painful death.
Millions of animals die worldwide from rabies every year, directly from the disease and through culling programs intended to reduce the risk of rabies to humans.
Around 1,000 people die as a result of infectious animal bites in Myanmar each year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The FOUR PAWS project reinforces Myanmar's goal to eradicate rabies by 2030 by deploying humane methods.
FOUR PAWS and Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) plan to launch a new era in the fight against rabies. Between 1 February 2019 and 31 December 2021, one million dogs and cats – most of them strays – will be vaccinated against the deadly disease.
FOUR PAWS will not only provide 500,000 vaccines, as well as international experts and the necessary equipment for catching, tagging and data collection, but will also be responsible for the implementation of the mass vaccination program. LBVD will provide the remainder of the needed vaccines and secure human resources on a national level. A team of roughly 100 people will carry out the vaccinations in Naypyidaw Union Territory, Yangon Region, Mandalay Region, Bago Region and Rakhine State.
“Together with the people of Myanmar, we are getting a step closer to the dream of a rabies-free world – for the sake of humans and animals. It will be a tough and long journey, but it will be worthwhile.”
Dr Amir Khalil, FOUR PAWS veterinarian and Project Leader
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals. Sadly, in many countries affected by rabies it is common for authorities to kill stray dogs and cats due to fear of the disease and the lack of available information.
FOUR PAWS implements mass vaccination and education programs like the one in Myanmar to stop the unnecessary slaughter of stray animals and to save the lives of humans threatened by infectious bites.
Two successful pilot projects in 2018
Together with LBVD as well as local and international veterinarians, FOUR PAWS tested the water with two pilot projects in Myanmar in March and May 2018. The team vaccinated 59,058 animals in 516 villages and main towns in the townships of Lewe and Nyaung-U, both located in the Mandalay Region. FOUR PAWS reinforced its efforts in the field with an additional education and awareness campaign in the region.
“Raising awareness about the disease and the proper treatment of animals is as crucial as the vaccinations themselves. Many people falsely believe that stray animals tend to be more aggressive during the hot season and therefore should be killed before it starts. We want to stop rabies, but also the unnecessary and brutal culling of these animals. That is why we are continuing to run the educational part of the campaign.”
Dr Marina Ivanova, FOUR PAWS veterinarian in Myanmar
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, however, is not easy.
According to LBVD, of the estimated four million dogs in the country, 70 percent are assumed to be strays. In 2017, nearly 62,000 people were bitten by dogs; 40 percent of those bitten were children under the age of fifteen. About 1,000 of these bites proved fatal as a result of rabies infections – but there is hope.
“We are happy to strengthen our partnership with Myanmar because the dream of a world without rabies is a realistic and feasible one. For only one euro, we get one animal rabies-free, which already helps us to get closer to eradicating rabies deaths,” said FOUR PAWS president and founder, Heli Dungler.
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