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Darfur: improving animal health

01-01-2006 Feature

The ICRC has launched an animal vaccination programme in the conflict-torn Sudanese province of Darfur to try to sustain the livelihood of people in isolated areas. The campaign forms part of a wider plan to improve livestock management.

 

© ICRC / Virginie Miranda / sd-e-00405 
 
Vaccination teams remained at least three days in each village. 
    The livelihood of many rural communities in Sudan is threatened by two endemic animal diseases, haemorrhagic septicaemia and black quarter, which kill growing numbers of goats, camels and cattle. Years of conflict in the Darfur region and a lack of trained animal health personnel have made access to vaccination facilities difficult, if not impossible, and the immunity level of herds is critically low. In response to approaches from the Sudanese health authorities and local communities, the ICRC embarked on a campaign to vaccinate up to 500,000 animals in one of the most badly-hit areas, Dar Zaghawa in north Darfur. Vaccines were provided by the Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries, and the Department of Animal Health assigned a number of qualified technicians as team leaders and trainers. The ICRC was responsible for transport and logistics and obtaining the necessary security guarantees from armed groups in the region.
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See also the latest video on ICRC activities in DarfurLiving in the shadow of conflict (format RealMedia stream) 
     
The campaign began towards the end of July. The logistical challenges were greatly increased by the early arrival of the rainy season which meant that animals had to be reached in their grazing areas. 

Villages in the area were grouped in five clusters and two phases of activity were planned. 

First, the ICRC teams visited each of the proposed vaccination stations to explain their infrastructure needs. Fences had to be erected for goats and cattle crushes. A restricted area had to be prepared for camels with restraining ropes to limit movement during the vaccination process.

Then, the campaign got under way. Vaccination teams remained at least three days in each village to allow for any late arrivals at the designated points and ensure that as many herds as possible were treated. It took six weeks to reach all of the targeted animals. Local communities showed enormous hospitality and gratitude throughout – in particular the women, often in charge of domestic animals.

Livestock is at the heart of the fragile economy in Darfur and vaccination remains a high priority for most pastoral communities. The ICRC plans to replicate the Dar Zaghawa programme in other regions in 2006 – including two more in North Darfur where the need is greatest.

 Building Rural Health Infrastructure  

 

© ICRC / Ursula Meissner / sd-e-00503 
 
The ICRC obtained the necessary security guarantees from armed groups for the good completion of the vaccination campaign.  
      Most animal health facilities are centralized in Khartoum. In other parts of Sudan, animal health workers are in short supply and those coming from the city are not always well accepted.

  The ICRC is organizing basic training to help rural communities manage the health of their livestock. The Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries and local leaders identify suitable candidates; the ICRC recruits the students, funds the workshops and provides the transport to reach remote areas, many of which are affected by the ongoing conflict.

  The trainees are given a basic knowledge of common diseases affecting herds and how to treat them. On completing the course, the ICRC provides a starter kit of medicines and instruments to carry out the work.

  Some 120 people, including four women, attended the first three training courses organized in 2005. A further six are planned for 2006, as well as a more advanced three-month course for animal health workers.

  The programme goal is to supplement the capacity and knowledge of the few experienced animal health professionals in the region and enable the setting-up of much needed veterinarian clinics in remote, rural areas.