FAO in Tanzania

Government, FAO and USAID join hands to fight against rabies in Moshi

The campaign launch

1,500 lives lost every year

Tanzania loses an estimated 1,500 people to rabies every year, a zoonotic disease that is caused by a bite from infected dogs primarily, but also cats or some wild carnivals like hyenas, wild dogs and foxes, among others. Following a recent reports of outbreaks of rabies in humans in Moshi, the FAO through funding from the USAID acted promptly in alliance with national partners.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign against the disease for Moshi District, Kilimanjaro region, the Director of Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Dr. Martin Ruheta, said that the disease, which was first reported in the country in 1933, is very fatal, causing deaths in 99 percent of the infected victims.

“The disease is spread to humans through close contacts with infectious materials via licking of open wounds by dogs, and bites or scratches by infected animals. Once symptoms of the disease develop the rabies is always fatal and the chances of survival are very minimal. Tanzania loses an estimated one thousand five hundred people every year,” he emphasized.

According to him, besides humans, the disease also affects other livestock and other mammals but can be prevented 100% by vaccinating all dogs and cats in the neighbourhood, thereby avoiding unnecessary economic and social losses.

The campaign was carried out by the Government through the One Health Desk in Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries with technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Other partners who were part of the campaign included One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA), Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), USAID, and with supports from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and World Health Organization (WHO).

Vaccination campaign

A total of 33,700 doses of rabies vaccine were officially received by the Deputy Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Abdallah Hamis Ulega, at a function that was conducted at the Ministry’s Dar es Salaam office. The occasion was utilized to deliver a consignment of the vaccines and public awareness materials leaflets and posters.

In his remarks, Mr. Ulega appreciated the support from development partners including FAO and USAID in carrying out such vaccination campaigns in the country calling upon all Tanzanians to vaccinate their animals due to the fatality that such diseases can cause to humans and the economy.

“It is by far cheaper and economical to invest in disease prevention through vaccination than to treat infected humans. For instance, the cost of treating patient infected by rabies virus is estimated at more than seventy thousand Tanzanian shillings whereas vaccinating a dog is less than fourteen thousand shillings,” he pointed out.

Countrywide vaccination plan

The Deputy Minister disclosed that the Government was preparing a plan for a nationwide vaccination campaign which will require all the people keeping animals and livestock in the country to vaccinate them in order to curb the spread of diseases among livestock and to humans.

On his part, the FAO Representative to Tanzania, Fred Kafeero, said that the UN Agency supports the training of government staff and equipping laboratories for early detection and rapid response to zoonotic and other high impact animal diseases and that the response to rabies outbreak in Moshi district directly falls under the ambit of its works.

“FAO will continue to work with the Tanzania Government to support the livestock sector in the mainland and Zanzibar in ensuring good animal health, through surveillance of country priority zoonotic diseases and upgrading of veterinary laboratories through provision of essential equipment, reagents and training,” he said. In his conclusion, he added that the FAO will also continue to support the One Health initiative and approach linking animals, humans and the environment and facilitating Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) preventive initiatives in the country.

Speaking at the function, and on behalf of USAID Country Director, Dr. Patrick Swai said that USAID has been working with the government in various areas including the interventions to curb the spread of zoonotic diseases in the country.

“USAID will continue to work and support the Government working through its various implementing partners particularly on programmes to curb zoonosis-infections that affect both humans and animals. We extend our gratitude to both the Government and our partners that we work together with in this cause,” he said.  

During the regional launch of the awareness campaign and field activities that took place at Kindi Kati village in Kibosho Ward, Moshi District, the Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner, Anna Mghwira, said that the region was blessed with a big number of animals but noted that some could spread diseases to humans and livestock like dogs and cats.

“Our region also hosts important national parks and forests where wild animals like foxes, wild dogs and hyenas can play part in spreading rabies to humans. So we should all vaccinate our dogs and cats to reduce if not to stop the spread of the killer disease,” she urged. 

Speaking at the Moshi event, the FAO Tanzania Country Team Leader for the Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) Programme, Folorunso Fasina, said that the campaign involved vaccination of dogs and cats targeting over 32,000 of them in total to provide vaccination coverage of at least 80 percent of the total numbers of dogs and cats in the district. “It also included public awareness raising campaign that included intensive mass media use; IEC materials production and distribution, town hall meetings, among others. Finally, epidemio-surveillance and sampling will be carried out alongside the vaccination campaign,” he said.