A new project is set to support local communities with tackling the spread of rabies, to help protect thousands of dogs from the risk of infection.
The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) launched the Communities Against Rabies initiative, which is supported by a Battersea Grant, on 27 August 2023 in a move to incorporate community level action into the global effort to eliminate rabies.
Battersea has announced the latest progress of the project to mark World Rabies Day (28 September), which acknowledges the work of organisations and charities across the world as they work towards complete eradication of the infectious disease.
GARC say its project is galvanised by the estimated 59,000 people that die of rabies infections each year, of which 95 per cent occur in poorer, rural regions of Africa and Asia. It believes that this is due to the vaccines not reaching the communities that need them.
To tackle the problem, Communities Against Rabies is focusing on empowering communities and societies to control rabies using One Health and proven best practices.
The initiative includes the training of ‘Dog Health Champions’, which are to become the first dog-health focused workforce for rabies elimination. Once trained, they will educate their communities on dog health and welfare, rabies vaccinations and surveillance.
It also involves the certification of Rabies Centers of Excellence (RCEs), which will connect and collaborate through the Partners for Community Dog Health programme with similar organisations to ensure effective sharing of resources and co-ordination.
These centres will have additional capacity building, resources and financial support to help with their rabies elimination efforts.
Since the project started, two centres have already been certified: WECare Worldwide in Sri Lanka and Animal Relief for Rural Communities (ARRC) in South Africa.
The WECare centre has been working on the ground, vaccinating pets, strays, and street dogs against the disease. This included eighteen month old Lassie, who was vaccinated alongside four dogs and two cats in her household before it was recorded on the GARC rabies surveillance app.
Meanwhile the South African centre, AARC, has been conducting crucial rabies vaccinations and education work in the community of Limpopo. Limpopo previously had no formal veterinary support for rabies prevention and a limited public health service for humans, so support from Communities Against Rabies was particularly important.
GARC believes that their new initiative will continue to address shortcomings in the global effort to completely eradicating rabies infections by 2030.
Professor Louis Nel, executive director of GARC, said: “While there has been significant progress in recent years, a lack of co-ordination, reliable data, and investment has prevented the ‘last mile’ of rabies elimination, particularly at the local level.
“The Communities Against Rabies initiative addresses these historic shortcomings by pioneering a new global grassroots movement, equipping rabies-affected communities with the coordination, expertise, and tools needed to achieve rabies elimination.”
Image © Battersea