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Disaster Relief
Veterinary response to Kenyan drought

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AN appeal launched by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) to support an emergency veterinary response to the drought in the Horn of Africa has raised over £12,000, helping vital veterinary services to be provided in the Tana River Basin in Kenya.

The RVC launched the appeal last year on behalf of VetAid Kenya (VR, September 3, 2011, vol 169, pp 241–242). VetAid Kenya has been working primarily in the Tana River Basin to which pastoralists have migrated with their animals in search of grazing. The RVC reports that this area was fortunate in that it received some late rains, meaning that there was sufficient grazing available to prevent animals dying of starvation. However, the situation was complex as they were still at risk of disease as a result of the large concentration of stressed animals in a restricted area and the threat of diseases that they did not have endemic immunity to.

The funding raised by the appeal has been used to provide logistical support, including hiring vehicles and purchasing vaccination equipment to assist a government veterinary team. Using vaccines provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization, 125,000 cattle and 25,000 camels have been vaccinated against blackquarter and anthrax, and 15,000 sheep and goats have been vaccinated against peste des petits ruminants, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia and goat pox. All the animals were also treated with broad-spectrum anthelmintics to help reduce parasitic stress.

The RVC says that the emergency intervention is only an initial response to a longer term problem, but that it will have gone some way to helping sustain traditional livelihoods and avoiding the need for more pastoralists to move into refugee camps. It adds that the crisis has also demonstrated how small organisations such as VetAid can be particularly effective in this field through their flexibility and willingness to work in remote areas of the country where help is most urgently needed. It says that the campaign will need to continue in order to help the pastoralists rebuild their herds and return to their traditional grazing areas.

VetAid Kenya's director, Gabriel Turasha, has a long-term commitment to enhancing the resilience of pastoralists to future droughts by developing fodder banks along the Tana River with improved irrigation and storage systems. In addition, he wants to see improved training of pastoralists in sustainable water conservation methods, better access to animal markets and timely control of endemic diseases.

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