FAO works side-by-side with community-based animal health workers to improve livestock health in South Sudan

FAO works side-by-side with community-based animal health workers to improve livestock health in South Sudan

18/06/2015

In the day of a community-based animal health worker (CBAHW) in South Sudan, you have to rise and shine before the cows do. CBAHWs are trained veterinarian service providers and work around the country volunteering to vaccinate and treat livestock. The population of livestock in South Sudan makes its national herd the third largest on the African continent. But due to conflict and large-scale displacement by way of the current crisis, normal livestock migration patterns have been disrupted for millions of livestock. As a result, disease outbreaks and social tensions have intensified on an unprecedented scale. The emergency response to the livestock crisis in South Sudan therefore had to be massive. Hundreds of the country’s CBAHWs joined FAO and donors including the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), to launch an emergency livestock vaccination campaign that will reach 6 million animals during 2015.

Reflecting on the campaign’s efforts, Senior Advisor for DANIDA, Karin Eriksen said, “FAO’s work with reducing transmission of diseases and vaccinating livestock is important, especially now, when migration patterns might be changed by the conflict and families highly rely on their livestock.”

Teams from FAO and DANIDA travelled to Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State for the launch of the initiative in Makuac Cot, a payam outside of Aweil North. More than 6 000 head of cattle and over 27 cattle keepers awaited the teams, with the clock ticking quickly for CBAHWs who had to vaccinate the thousands of livestock before they moved onto grazing pastures. Getting there before grazing time presents challenges of its own in a place like South Sudan, where 60 percent of the country becomes inaccessible during the rainy season. To reach past the counties and into the bomas, Anding Achoul, a CBAHW since 1999, has walked up to three hours to give livestock vaccines and treatments. His self-proclaimed motivation is simply helping animals. 

A dozen CBAHWs dressed in lab coats and navy blue uniforms were on the scene in the early morning hours in Mukuac Cot, including Aweil North county supervisor, James Garang. When he saw animals in his community dying, Garang wanted to help and he became a CBAHW in 1998.  He has weathered many challenges in the profession, the biggest struggle being transportation and lack of access to crucial livestock medicines and drugs. Very few veterinary pharmacies exist in South Sudan and most medicines are imported from Sudan and Uganda. Despite the odds, Garang and his team of CBAHWs are committed to helping their communities and improving livestock health. Over the years, Garang has witnessed first-hand the shift in traditional livestock keepers, “Now cattle keepers are seeking treatment sooner instead of using traditional methods for medicines. They know how to report the diseases to animal health workers, they can manage the animals better and the quality of the animals has become more important to them.” Garang vaccinates up to 500 cattle per day during FAO’s campaign and when asked if he likes his job he says, “Yes it is good, that is why I am wearing my uniform.” Someday Garang hopes to open his own pharmacy to provide more livestock owners with medicines for their animals.

FAO South Sudan works with CBAHWs year round through the Emergency Livelihood Response Programme (ELRP) and ongoing development projects in less affected areas. FAO’s livestock vaccination campaign will continue throughout the year and has reached over 2.5 million animals in the past three months alone.

“Cattle are both a curse and a blessing in South Sudan. On one hand it is a main driver of conflict, on the other it is proven that families with cattle are more resilient.  Denmark supports FAO because their work with the cattle camps and distribution of seeds and fishing kits can help prevent families from sliding into food insecurity and thereby have to rely on humanitarian assistance to survive,” Karin Eriksen, Senior Advisor, DANIDA.

In order to continue to increase efforts to vaccinate and treat South Sudan’s livestock and build capacities of CBAHWs, FAO South Sudan has trained over 100 CBAHW in 2015. Emergency livestock health kits for CBAHWs and cattle owners are distributed nationwide and complemented with training wherever security and accessibility permit. FAO has conducted direct interventions where needed and has undertaken livestock outbreak investigations around the country.