FAO in Sierra Leone

Efforts to Eliminate dog-mediated Human Rabies Intensifies

Vaccinated dogs certified after treatment

FAO Supports Implementation of the National Rabies Elimination Strategy

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the National Livestock and Animal Welfare, Rabies control Taskforce (NLAWRCT) organized mass dog vaccinations and rabies awareness campaigns on the 28th September 2018

The campaign was to support the implementation of the national rabies elimination strategy and as part of extended celebrations for the World Rabies Day.

Rabies is one of the priority zoonotic diseases in Sierra Leone and the disease is already “endemic” and the country has one of Africa's largest population of stray dogs estimated at 250, 000. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation says, on average, three people out of every 100, 000 die from rabies infection in the country, which amounts to 210 deaths annually from the disease.

With funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) portfolio, FAO provided technical and logistical support to conduct mass dog vaccinations in Freetown, Bombali (Makeni) and Kenema districts from 18th to 26th October 2018. The Organization provided human and dog vaccines, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) among other supplies for the mass dog vaccination drive. Over 1,309 dogs were vaccinated against rabies and also provided with supportive treatment against worms and ecto-parasites (mange).

Also, series of radio messages were relayed through national and community radio stations to raise awareness on rabies prevention and control. This year’s World Rabies Day 2018 theme was “Share the message. Save a life”. This highlighted the importance of education and awareness to prevent rabies. FAO used many levels to share different messages, from the policy-level message for governments to commit to the 2030 deadline of eliminating dog-mediated human rabies, to community-level messages about vaccinating dogs and treating bite wounds, and dog bite prevention education for school children.

“The rabies strategy, which is developed by the taskforce and other civil society partners with support from FAO, focuses on eliminating rabies and adoption of holistic dog population management in Sierra Leone by 2030.” Said Mr Sorie Kamara, the Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry during the launch of the mass vaccination drive in Makeni and Kenema Districts.

The strategy emphasizes on elimination of rabies in dogs by conducting mass dog vaccination targeting greater than 70 percent of dog population coverage annually for three consecutive years and dog population management; prevention of rabies in humans by providing timely access to appropriate Post Exposure Treatment (wound cleaning, vaccination and rabies immunoglobulin) to all human cases of dog-bites suspected to be rabid and by increasing knowledge and skills among animal and human health workers on rabies and post-exposure management; strengthening surveillance and response to outbreak and, advocacy, communication and social mobilization to raise awareness on rabies prevention and control. “The dogs are a nuisance, barking and growling in the dead of the night and their population is scary, with some of them infected with rabies”.

Rashid Jones, a resident of Makeni Town community lamented his disappointment about who should take responsibility to rid the streets of Makeni from stray dogs. “Domestic dogs are the main source of infection to humans, with at least 98 percent of human rabies”, Dr Austine Bitek said, the FAO-ECTAD Epidemiologist. He further stated that rabies elimination through mass dog vaccination is the most cost-effective strategy, saving lives and results in decline in the use of costly human post exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

The FAO representative in Sierra Leone Dr Nyabenyi Tipo during the World Rabies Day celebrations emphasized need for inter-sectoral and multi-sectoral collaborative approach to rabies prevention and control. “We should be all-inclusive and employ inter-sectoral one health approach to eliminate human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030. This will aim to offer an integrated response to country needs through empowering, engaging and enabling all partners to lead and strengthen elimination efforts and for best utilization of the available resources.”


Germain Bobo

Country Team Leader, FAO ECTAD Sierra Leone

[email protected]