On World Rabies Day 2022, there’s good news from Kabul, where there are now zero recorded cases of rabies, thanks to a mass rabies vaccination programme being delivered by the Afghan branch of UK animal charity Mayhew.

Mayhew Afghanistan (part of UK animal charity Mayhew), Kabul Municipality, Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation & Livestock and Kabul University Vet Faculty, are working in a dynamic and unique partnership to eradicate rabies in Kabul.  The global profile and awareness of rabies is being raised through public advocacy and awareness efforts and delivery of a city-wide mass vaccination programme.

Almost 95,000 dogs in Kabul have now been vaccinated

As a result of this epic initiative, there have been no recorded canine-mediated rabies deaths in humans for the past 18 months in Kabul. And to date, there have been no confirmed cases of rabies in dogs in the city since April 2021, a landmark achievement being celebrated on World Rabies Day 2022 on 28 September.

Prior to 2017, on average there were 38 recorded human deaths each year from canine-mediated rabies in the city. Mayhew Afghanistan’s mass rabies vaccination programme was then launched in August 2017, with support from Dogs Trust Worldwide, and in subsequent years, the Edgard Cooper Foundation as well. The vaccination programme has run over a course of four cycles. Since the programme commenced almost 95,000 dogs have been vaccinated in sixteen of the city’s districts.

Plans are currently underway for the programme to be rolled out to six remaining outlying districts of Kabul, which were previously inaccessible. Again, a huge achievement for the initiative.

Dr Jawad from Mayhew Afghanistan, speaking to Kabul boys about how to behave around street dogs

First of its kind programme for Afghanistan

The vaccination team, comprising Mayhew Afghanistan vets and a team of Kabul Municipality dog-catchers, who are trained in humane catching methods by Mayhew, work systematically across the sixteen districts of Kabul catching the dogs, vaccinating them and marking them with a dash of non-toxic paint before releasing them.

In order to break the chain of the rabies virus transmission, the benchmark is that a minimum of 70% of the dog population in any one area is vaccinated before moving on to the next area. Post-vaccination surveys are carried out to count the dogs marked with the paint and cross-checked against the dog population survey carried out earlier to meet this threshold.

In addition, the Mayhew Community Engagement team in Afghanistan, are raising awareness to address the human aspect of rabies, in order to reduce the number of cases through a holistic approach. The team talk to locals of all ages, explaining their work, discussing rabies dog-bite prevention and how to behave around the roaming dogs in their city. Since May 2021, the team have reached 1,440 adults and 3,120 children through this work.

As Caroline Yates, Head of International Projects and Relations at Mayhew, explains, “Since it first began five years ago, our rabies vaccination programme in Kabul, the first of its kind for Afghanistan and devised by Mayhew Afghanistan’s Country Director, Dr Abdul-Jalil Mohammadzai DVM, has raised the profile of the country’s struggle with rabies, this neglected yet endemic disease, with leading organisations involved in the fight against rabies. ‘Dr Mo’, as he is affectionately known, convinced the Kabul authorities to stop the culling of dogs and has helped initiate this life-saving programme for dogs and people. As a result, Mayhew is proud to be part of WHO/WOAH’s overall strategy to eliminate canine-mediated rabies by 2030, “Zero by 2030.”

Caroline continues, “It is vital that people understand the importance of rabies control for the health and safety of humans and animals.  This is a disease which is 100% preventable, and mass vaccination of dogs is a proven method of reaching that goal, as well as being the most cost-effective. As in many of the world’s poorer countries, where rabies in endemic, Kabul’s residents are frequently unable to access rabies vaccinations or post-prophylaxis treatment if bitten by a dog, either because the vaccines are unavailable, or in most cases, unaffordable. Fear of this fatal disease leads governments to introduce culling of dogs which is ineffective and does nothing to prevent the transmission of the disease or control the population.”

She adds, “The large number of vaccinated dogs and the fact there have been no canine-mediated rabies deaths in humans for 18 months, proves the campaign is working. As we approach World Rabies Day on 28 September, with this year’s theme of ‘One health, zero deaths’ in mind, Mayhew’s team in Afghanistan should feel very proud of their achievements.”

To find out more about Mayhew’s work, visit www.themayhew.org

Mayhew’s international work

Mayhew also has branches in Afghanistan and Georgia, where our international projects are delivered.

Our work overseas provides sustainable solutions to the roaming dog populations and disease control in these countries by delivering, vaccinations programmes, training the local veterinary profession and proving employment opportunities to ensure we are building local capacity through knowledge and skills development to continue to deliver the work on an on-going basis which is not reliant on overseas support. Finally, we work with local communities to change people’s behaviour and attitudes towards dogs to ensure an holistic approach to eradicating rabies and reducing the number of deaths.

To date, in Afghanistan over 30,000 dogs have been neutered and more than 95,000 dogs have been vaccinated against rabies.

In 2021, in Georgia 2,038 dogs were neutered and 1,984 dogs were vaccinated against rabies and the most common canine infectious diseases.

To find out more about Mayhew’s work overseas, visit www.themayhew.org/international

For adoption, clinic and general enquiries, call: 020 8962 8000.

To donate, call: 020 8206 5870.

About World Rabies Day 2022

World Rabies Day is the biggest event on the global rabies calendar, coordinated by GARC (Global Alliance for Rabies Control) and it has been commemorated every year on September 28 – the anniversary of the death of Louis Pasteur – since 2007. World Rabies Day aims to raise awareness and advocate for rabies elimination globally. It is an event designed to be inclusive, uniting people, organizations, and stakeholders across all sectors against rabies – because together we can eliminate rabies! With this concept of togetherness and unity in mind, the theme for this year’s World Rabies Day is Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths.

This year’s theme will focus on One Health, coupled with the reminder of the “Zero by 30” goal and the fact that dog-mediated human rabies elimination is possible. We purposefully created a theme with a positive message by highlighting and reminding the global community that rabies elimination is possible, that we have a goal (Zero by 30) and that we stand united against this dreadful disease. This positive message aims to be a refreshing break following the worst of the Covid pandemic, all the fear and negative messaging and reports, and the negative public responses to vaccination mandates for Covid. Importantly for rabies, we have a strong global community, we have the tools and the expertise, and we have a goal for the elimination of human deaths from dog-mediated rabies. So, the message focuses on coming together to make positive change and achieve what we know is possible: rabies elimination. For more information, visit https://rabiesalliance.org/world-rabies-day

To find out more about World Rabies Day 2022, please click here.



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