ARUA – Mr. Charles Bebay, the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO), Regional Manager, Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Disease – ECTAD, Eastern Africa has said that rabies in Uganda is a big problem despite the availability of safer vaccines.
Bebay was on Monday speaking during the training of veterinary officers at the White Castle Hotel in Arua, ahead of World Rabies Day commemoration on Tuesday.
Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite of affected animals mostly dogs and cats.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), FAO took this year’s commemoration to West Nile, being the most affected part of Uganda under the theme, rabies; spread fact not fear.
“The purpose of commemorating this day is to create awareness. We are happy to be part of this and to support the development of Uganda. As I said, despite the availability of safer vaccines, rabies remains a higher burden in the country,” said Bebay.
According to him, this year’s commemoration is going to be on the issue of fear, focus on sharing facts about rabies, the benefits of the vaccination, “not creating fear about the disease through misinformation.”
Bebay advocated for “facts”, saying that it is the only way to beat fake news.
He lauded MAAIF and all the partners for commemorating World Rabies Day at the grassroots level.
“This is where we are missing to collect the fact to guide the decision-making process……. sharing facts about the benefits of vaccinating rabies and ensure that everyone is protected.”
Ms Ewachabo Roselin Sandra, assistant CAO, Arua attributed the increased rabies in Arua to stray dogs.
“Some families keep over ten dogs,” she said.
According to her, in 2021, the district so far has registered over 270 cases, 89 of whom are children under fourteen years, females 48, males 135, and deaths 6.
“Last year we had 182 males, 149 females, under fourteen 160 and 09 deaths in Arua district. So, it’s good you are celebrating this day at the grassroots, the people are going to hear from your direct mouth,” she said.
Representing the commissioner animal health – MS Ann Rose Ademun, Dr. Robert Mwebe, a senior veterinary officer, ministry of agriculture said that rabies is one of the notifiable diseases which has to be reported to the authority as soon as it is suspected.
He said that the disease is “a hundred percent preventable”, urging people to commit to regular vaccination of their animals especially dogs and cats.
He said that the ministry has also focused on early post-exposure treatment and the creation of awareness amongst different categories of people.
Records, according to him show that in Uganda 2015-16, over 16,000 human dog bites were recorded by the health ministry, and “rabies continued to be a disease which is disturbing most of our districts especially in West Nile region.”
He called for joined efforts from all different stakeholders to bring one health approach which brings almost everyone.
“As a ministry, we are committed to working with all the stakeholders involved in the control. We shall continue to procure and provide vaccines for vaccinating our dogs and cats and other animals. The ministry is trying as much as possible to provide the vaccine.”
Dr. Daniel Kasibule, the President of the Uganda Veterinary Association – UVA asked all veterinary officers to subscribe if they are to achieve a common goal.
“Many of us think UVA is for Kampala, no that’s a myth. It’s your Association that you should embrace, love, and subscribe to so that it performs vital functions that will do a lot in seeing we achieve the goals that we need.”
Dr. Isingoma Chrispus, a veterinary student at Makere University revealed that since morning, they had vaccinated about 170 dogs and about 40 cats.
He called for the vaccination of animals, saying that it is the best way to fight rabies.