60. Thailand Is Fighting to Become a Rabies-Free NationOn August 28, 2017, Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol of Thailand visited the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva. The purpose of her visit was largely related to her efforts regarding a widespread health concern, as Thailand is fighting to become a rabies-free nation. Princess Mahidol hopes to accomplish this goal in Thailand by 2020, which is line with a broader initiative to eradicate human rabies deaths by 2030.

Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease that predominantly affects southeast Asia and parts of Africa, but exists worldwide. The disease is transmitted through contact with an infected, warm-blooded animal. While most people are familiar with the transmission occurring by bite, the disease can also spread by saliva on broken skin or through a mucous membrane in the eyes, nose or mouth.

For Thailand, dogs present the greatest rabies threat to humans. There are an estimated 10 million dogs in the country. The National Health Institute suggests that about 10 percent of stray dogs in Bangkok carry the disease. These dogs pose risks to travelers, people who work around animals and playful children alike.

Thailand’s government has taken up this issue in part due to the specific risk rabies poses to the majority of the country’s population living in low-income rural areas. However, treatment with prophylaxis (PEP) is very accessible and affordable. Through mass dog vaccination and treatment of infected humans, Thailand has already succeeded in reducing human rabies cases by 90 percent since the 1980s. According to Chulalongkorn University’s Dr. H. Wilde, the most important next step is to get PEP out to the village level, because that is where Thailand “could save many thousands of lives.”

The villages of Thailand are far away from the hospitals of Bangkok and typically are host to the greatest levels of poverty. On a country-wide level, poverty has significantly decreased in the last 30 years. However, Princess Mahidol has recognized there is still a need for better healthcare among the impoverished. Princess Mahidol is seeking to send mobile units to provide care for people that do not have the means of acquiring treatment in bigger cities. This provision is possible as a direct reflection of the government’s fight against poverty. By focusing on reducing poverty and expanding welfare services, nearly everyone in Thailand is covered by health insurance, which makes the treatment even more accessible and affordable.

Thailand is working to become a rabies-free nation by 2020 and owes much of its success to its continued fight against poverty. By reducing the number of people affected by poverty and expanding welfare services to include broad health insurance, those in Thailand are likely to see the end of rabies soon.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

Rabies outbreaks in poor rural areas
Rabies occurs in more than 150 countries in the world. The disease is present on all continents with the exception of Antarctica. Each year, tens of thousands of people die from the infection it causes.

Most of the areas that are affected are in Asia and Africa and account for over 95% of human rabies deaths. The disease occurs mainly in remote rural communities. Rabies outbreaks are rampant among impoverished and vulnerable populations.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease. It is caused by a virus that allows the disease to be transmitted to humans from animals. The disease may affect domestic and wild animals, known carriers include foxes, raccoons, skunks, jackals, mongooses and other wild carnivore host species. However, dogs are the primary sources of human rabies deaths. Rabies is spread to people through close contact with an infectious substance such as bites, saliva or scratches. Most people usually become infected after a deep bite or scratch by an infected animal. Upon the onset of the disease developing, the disease is nearly always fatal.

Prevalence in rural areas is due to the lack of vaccinations. There is low vaccination coverage of dogs, and an inability to finance the costs of vaccination for humans. Other factors include poor management of dogs, and in particular the free movement of dogs, which increases their risk of contracting rabies from wildlife.

In terms of policy, rabies is lacking policy formulations to combat rabies throughout developing countries. As a result of the poor level of political commitment and effort to control rabies, there is a lack of understanding of how rabies impacts public health and socioeconomic affairs.

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral disease. Each year over 14 million people receive a post-exposure vaccination to prevent the disease. This vaccination prevents hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths. Other strategies to control the disease consist of controlling the dog population, vaccinating domesticated animals and education about prevention to reduce the number of animal bites. After a bite, immediately cleaning the wound, and immunization within a few hours after contact with the animal can prevent the onset of rabies.

The World Health Organization promotes human rabies prevention through the elimination of rabies in dogs. Their target is for the elimination of human and dog rabies in all Latin American countries by 2015, and South-East Asia by 2020.

Erika Wright

Sources: Iowa State University, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, NIH, WHO
Photo: CNN


While the nation of India has found its own new lease on life as it begins to become heavily industrialized, the furry members of its society are facing some new challenges.

For decades India has struggled with the issue of stray animals, and while cows and elephants are considered holy and treated with respect, the dogs and cats of India are facing a much harder time in their attempts to stay alive.

According to the World Health Organization, there are around 18,000 reported cases of rabies every year in India. In order to remedy this, India’s government had called for the euthanization of India’s stray dogs; however, after much discussion, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has asked many states to hold off on this action and attempted to vaccinate the stray animals against several diseases. Essentially, the AWBI believes that such actions taken against these animals is inhumane, as there is no clear distinguishing factor that determines whether an animal should be put down or vaccinated.

When walking the streets of India, it is very common to see dogs and cats roaming around, but travelers are advised not to pet them or interact with them, as they often find food in waste piles and are thus highly prone to disease and infection. However, many residents have been taking care of these animals for years; these animals are thought to have migrated over along with the original inhabitants of the land, thus creating a very blurry line as to which animals are stray and which have been domesticated. The issue with the current laws is that there is no defining point at which an animal becomes a family member and at which point it is still a stray. Many animal rights groups working alongside citizens have been fighting for this distinction to be made.

For now, the AWBI is advising the government to hold off on any euthanization or vaccination tactics that may be used to reduce the stray animal population. Some experts have proposed the idea of neutering definitively stray dogs and cats, so as to reduce the population. Many experts have made it clear that the key to reducing this issue is to better understand the animals themselves and their behavior. Most healthy animals will not bite or scratch a human unless they feel threatened, so a better understanding of animal behavior will allow citizens to express proper caution when dealing with them.

While the government of India remains at a standstill, citizens and animal rights groups have begun to press for better adoption systems and more definitive lines as to an animals ownership. Euthanization of these animals is effectively going against the Indian Supreme Court ruling against the killing of animals, and harm and cruelty toward animals. Many petitions and protests have been held against this action, but no decision has been reached. There is still a long road ahead for these furry friends, but it looks like there may be a light at the end of this very long tunnel.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: CNN, BBC
Photo: CNN

Body Shop Foundation
Human rights, the environment and animal protection are all causes that The Body Shop Foundation advocates for.

This charitable company works closely with The Body Shop International, a company that sells beauty and makeup products, making many of The Body Shop products an option to donate to charity.

Since 1989, the foundation has been funding and giving money to different projects around the world that focus on working for a social and environmental change.

Besides The Body Shop beauty products, they create various fundraising activities that allow them to manage their three different grant programs: animal protection, environmental protection and human rights.

In the 2011 values report of The Body Shop International, BSI, the foundation’s money, during the years 2009 and 2010, was spent in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Americas and Africa Global.

For this foundation, the natural environment means everything, and fighting to preserve and protect the animals and the environment is an important aspect to conserve the planet. Some of the animal and environment protection organizations that The foundation has supported are PAMS, the World Cetacean Alliance, the Orangutan Foundation and Wateraid, among others.

In the human rights area, The foundation has the belief that all basic rights should be given to everyone. The foundation supports organizations that fight for these means and give a voice to those who do not have one. Some of the human rights organizations that the foundation has supported are Cybersmile, Kaibosh, Changing Faces, Compassionate Hearts and Children on the Edge.

According to the 2014 impact report of the foundation, wildlife conservation, animal welfare, climate change, domestic violence, disability, poverty, child protection, access to water, recycling, forest conservation and water conservation were some of the funded issues by the foundation.

As another option, the foundation also provides volunteer opportunities in the areas of London and Littlehampton as another charitable method to advocate for the humanitarian causes they support.

The Body Shop’s 2015 fundraising product is called “Soft Hands Kind Heart.” The product is a hand cream sold in every The Body Shop store worldwide, and every purchase becomes a donation to the foundation.

For every “Soft Hands Kind Heart” cream sold, The Shop will donate £1.50 (US$2.33) to the foundation, helping it with the creation and success of its charitable programs. This beauty and makeup company is making a difference that contributes with the betterment of the world through charitable activities and fundraising projects.

The BSI, working hand in hand with the foundation, is an example of a company that provides and sells quality products to its customers at the same time as it provides donations to the organization. In tandem, it is also able to support and advocate for their three focuses: human rights, environmental protection and animal protection.

– Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: The Body Shop Foundation 1, The Body Shop Foundation 2, The Body Shop Foundation 3, The Body Shop Foundation 4, The Body Shop Foundation 5, The Body Shop USA
Photo: The Body Shop Foundation

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is home to over 500 gorillas that are changing the face of Rwanda’s communities. A tourism revenue-sharing scheme allows five percent of the annual income in the national park to be distributed among local areas.

Mountain gorillas in Rwanda are an endangered species that can only be found along the borders between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They attracted more than 1 million tourists between the years of 2006 and 2013 and generated $75 million in revenue for the national park system.

With this large amount of money coming in, the Rwandan government created a system where five percent of the national park’s income would be divided among surrounding communities.

According to the Rwanda Development Board, more than 39,000 people have benefited from this program.

Since the program’s conception in 2005, $1.83 million has been distributed to fund 360 community projects across the country. These projects have included things like roadwork, building bridges, bee keeping, water and sanitation projects, handiworks and small and medium enterprises.

Many of these initiatives have had a focus on sustainability. Conservation of nature is a priority for Rwanda, as it has such a positive impact on the country as a whole.

In addition to community projects, the money has been used for various public works. The Rwandan government built 57 primary schools throughout 13 districts, reaching about 13,700 students in the past 10 years. Twelve health centers have been built in areas where health care was previously difficult to acquire.

There is a lengthy process to determine which projects will receive funding from the tourism revenue program.

The Rwanda Development Board analyzes each community to ensure funds are allocated to the appropriate initiatives.

“We sit down with community leaders and decide how to distribute the money according to the priorities in the area, to address the issues that prevail in the area,” said Telesphore Ngoga, the conservation division manager at The Rwanda Development Board.

The tourism revenue-sharing scheme has allowed communities to thrive in a way that would not be possible otherwise.

“Local residents are the primary beneficiaries as it has helped set up community businesses and income generating projects that has improved lives and the communities’ economy,” said Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: The Guardian, Rwanda Eye
Photo: The Guardian

On June 20, 2014, The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) announced that it would effectively prevent the Tanzanian Government from constructing a highway through the Serengeti National Park, a 5700 square-mile World Heritage Site. The African Network for Animal Care (ANAW) won the case against the Tanzanian government, which had plans to construct an asphalt highway through the park to foster socio-economic growth for the 1.2 million people living in the area.

The construction plans were drawn to fulfill a promise made by President Jakaya Kikwete during his last presidential campaign, with the goal of connecting developing communities in the Northwest with the rest of Tanzania. The proposed road would be over 33 miles long, cutting directly through the park; currently, the only road in Serengeti runs below the park’s southern boundary. The road would also include a 164-foot “buffer” zone on either side. The entire space road would no longer be considered park land, so commercial traffic—including large trucks—could utilize it freely.

The Serengeti—meaning “endless plains” in the Massai language—is as famous for its annual migration as it is for its breathtaking scenery, drawing 90,000 tourists anually. For ANAW, fighting construction of the road meant protecting both the animals and tourism, which is crucial to Tanzania’s economy. Each year, during the “dry season,” millions of animals migrate circularly through the Serengeti and into the Massai Mara Reserve in Kenya in search of grass and water. Construction in their natural habitat could potentially alter or even halt migration, which is vital to the survival of millions of the animals. Additionally, a major commercial road would decrease the Serengeti’s scenic value for which thousands of people travel to witness each year, contradicting the government’s plans to boost economy in the area.

ANAW’s case continued to cite that not only would construction disrupt the park’s scenic quality and the natural habitat of millions of animals, but it would also pose serious threats to both humans and animals in the area. Increased vehicular traffic could increase the number of traffic-related or roadside animal and human fatalities. Increased traffic also poses serious risks to Serengeti’s ecosystem, increasing air, water, and soil pollution. ANAW’s bottom line: high-impact development could have had severe, damaging effects on the animals and people who call Serengeti home, which isn’t worth it.

Though the government worked to ensure that adequate measures would be taken to prevent harmful or negative consequences tied to the construction, plans have been canceled as of now. Ultimately, environmental protection, sustainable development and the protection of natural resources remained the top issues that influenced the judges at the EAJC. The road—which has sparked debate for several years now—is an issue that is sure to surface again in the future. But, for now, the circle of life will continue as it always has in the Serengeti for humans and animals alike.

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: National Geographic, Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Tanzania National Parks, Humane Society International
Photo: National Geographic

As of May 27, 1,029,779 Syrian refugees were registered and residing in Lebanon, creating a challenging situation in an already unstable country. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO,) a United Nations entity that has been active in Lebanon since 1977, is addressing an aspect of food security in agriculture through an on-going livestock vaccination campaign that addresses the needs of Northern Lebanon’s poor and rural farmers.

Since the on-set of the Syrian crisis, the influx of refugees has put a significant strain on the agricultural sector which is working to provide food security to both local people and refugee families.

In addition to the increase in demand for food and decrease in production due to the pressure from the refugee influx, many farmers in the Bekaa Valley in Northern Lebanon have not had adequate access to veterinary services or necessary animal medicine, feed and fertilizer for their livestock.

Bekaa Valley, one of the poorest areas in Lebanon where agriculture generates around 80 percent of local gross domestic product (GDP), hosts around 60 percent of the UNHCR registered refugees. Since most of the low-income families rely heavily on livestock for food security, an outbreak in disease would not only risk the health of the livestock and people, but also their livelihood.

Due to the conflict and the 250-300 cattle and goats crossing from Syria into Lebanon each day, the FAO began a nationwide vaccination campaign targeting Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) such as foot & mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and ovine rinderpest. Beginning last summer and running through August 2014, it has been largely successful, reaching 70 percent of the livestock in Lebanon so far.

The program not only works to increase the number of sheep, goats and cattle vaccinated against important diseases, but also provides resources to ensure that livestock is adequately nourished and make sure farmers in communities that are hosting large refugee populations are still able to make a living.

As the on-going refugee crisis in Lebanon threatens to draw 170,000 more people into poverty by the end of 2014, it is important that investments continue to be made to promote agricultural growth, one of the most effective ways in reducing poverty. The FAO’s vaccination campaign is one step in securing the livelihoods of rural farmers in Northern Lebanon against potentially devastating livestock diseases.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Daily Star, IRIN News, United Nations, UNHCR 1, UNHCR 2
Photo: Wallsave

The Lincoln Park Zoo and MSD Animal Health have secured a joint victory for animal lovers and humanitarians alike. With substantial funding and direction from these two organizations, the Serengeti Health Initiative is vaccinating wild and domestic dogs to combat the spread of rabies in Tanzania, an endeavor that saves both the lives of people and animals in the east African nation.

Although rabies is both preventable and treatable, the developing world continues to suffer a disproportionate number of human cases. An estimated 70,000 people die from rabies every year, most of whom contract the disease in African and Asian nations. By vaccinating wild and domestic dogs, the Serengeti Project has reduced the annual number of rabies cases from 250 to effectively zero in Tanzania, which translates to an estimated 150 lives saved per year.

However, besides the immediate health benefits, the project improves the lives of Tanzanians in more ways than one. Dogs are essential to the welfare of many Tanzanians as they help herd goats, cattle and sheep. These animals also help protect farmers’ livestock from other wildlife. By ensuring these dogs remain healthy, the Project provides an essential service to many Tanzanians who rely on organized, protected livestock for their livelihood. Consequently, citizens are traveling miles to help combat the spread of this preventable, but deadly virus.

The Serengeti Health Initiative has produced a perceivable and positive impact on the outlook of the animal kingdom in Tanzania as well. Since the project’s commencement in 2003, the country’s lion population has experienced a healthy comeback. In addition, African Wild Dogs have successfully re-emerged in the ecosystem after being nearly extinct for the past two decades. However, the biggest success for animal lovers is how many animals are now avoiding this excruciatingly painful fate. Rabies causes a variety of symptoms, including disorientation, seizures and abnormally aggressive behavior before a debilitating paralysis results in death.

The results have been staggering. The Initiative has vaccinated over a million canines since 2003, yet the Lincoln Park Zoo publicly maintains that the fight is far from over: “The project has no end in sight: ongoing vaccinations are needed to continue to protect the Serengeti’s people, pets and predators.”

The project’s continuation is also beneficial to staff members like Anna Czupryna who are determined to learn more about the effects of the vaccination movement on the entire ecosystem. Czupryna also yearns to learn more about these understudied animals that roam Tanzania’s countryside.

“What do these dogs eat? What is pup survival like? What do they do on a daily basis?” She told the Chicago Tribune. “I just was curious. I just wanted to know.”

With so much to learn, staff members may be based in Tanzania for the foreseeable future, helping improve the lives of both man and animal in the east African nation.

– Sam Preston

Sources: The Chicago Tribune, ONE, Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo: Lincoln Park Zoo

At a meeting hosted by the Zoological Society of London, four African leaders vowed their countries would prohibit the sale of ivory for 10 years.

Prince Charles and The Duke of Cambridge also attended the gathering, which sought to “find new ways to protect animals and reduce demand for wildlife products,” according to BBC News.

The leaders of Gabon, Chad, Botswana and Tanzania said, “they will not act on an option to sell from their ivory stockpiles, in an effort to protect elephants.”

The ivory trade involves the poaching of animals such as elephants and rhinos for their ivory tusks. The BBC claims most of the practice takes place in Africa to satisfy the large demand from Asia.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) claims 23 metric tons of ivory, which is equivalent to 2,500 elephants, “was seized in the 13 largest seizures of illegal ivory in 2011.” Moreover, between 2007 and 2012, South Africa has seen a 5,000 percent increase of rhino poaching, “with over 900 rhinos poached in 2013 alone.”

The organization also claims that wildlife crime is worth $19 billion per year and is as dangerous as other black forms of illegal trade.

But why do people join the black market for ivory in the first place? The WWF suggests that people in many countries gained an interest in a “variety of seafoods, leather goods, timbers, medicinal ingredients and textiles.”

However, this only explains the demand side of an ivory transaction. By understanding the context of the African nations involved in the ivory trade, it is clear that people slaughter animals for reasons other than simply trying to be evil.

Thus, the WWF also believes that “extreme poverty means some people see wildlife as valuable barter for trade.” As a result, individuals exploit the corruption and weak judicial systems in their poor homelands that enable the illegal trade of ivory.

In other words, those who are involved in the killings of defenseless rhinos and elephants for their ivory are simply trying to survive. If the international community wishes to see and end to the ivory trade, it needs to provide more aid to African nations struggling with poverty.

– Juan Campos

Sources: BBC, WWF
Photo: All Africa

China’s Bird Flu on the Rise
Health officials have reported 73 cases of people infected with H7N9 in China this January, making the total in the country 221.The bird flu initially infected domestic chickens and ducks back in 2013 but has now caused 57 human deaths. There have been few reported cases of the virus spreading from person to person and a WHO official suggests that it mainly circulates due to the present cold winter.

So far, the virus has not mutated but the WHO remains cautious due to increased travel by the millions for the Chinese New Year. The virus has already spread a large distance, further south and east to the Guangdong province. A WHO official suggests that the virus might be seasonal or possibly linked to the increased exposure to poultry as the nation prepares for the New Year.

Approximately 3.6 billion trips are estimated to occur during this holiday and this is dangerous due to the millions who will be purchasing or receiving poultry as gifts.

Humans acquire the virus when they are in close proximity to infected poultry, so anyone could potentially contract it at the street markets or just as easily at home during food preparations. Billions of Chinese will be traveling in trains or buses alongside their chickens for the two week holiday, which could possibly lead to more outbreaks.

Several health officials are worried about H7N9 because this strain does not make infected birds sick, so both farmers and customers are unaware of the danger. Other flu strains lead to the virus being released in feces while H7N9 is breathed out by the infected birds. The first H7N9 cases first reported in Shanghai last March but since then another 200 people became infected.

Transmission has occurred by family clusters versus person to person and scientists have discovered that it is due to genetic markers that allow easier infection to mammals.

People who become infected have severe flu symptoms such as high fever and respiratory problems. Many also have shortness of breath, muscular pain, and even pneumonia. Currently, there is no evidence that suggests that this virus may mutate and spread around the globe since reports don’t suggest simple human to human transmission.

Chinese authorities are investigating more cases because several reports suggest contaminated environments can also infect humans. Fear remains until the holiday is over as increased travel could lead to the virus mutating and quickly pass between people. The WHO remains vigilant for any mutations and does not advise travel.

Maybelline Martez

Sources: USA Today, BBC, ABC News
Photo: Once Upon a Time