Tanzania Without Rabies-Yes We Can!
What do a marching band, chanting kids, a bunch of dogs and the army have in common?
World Rabies Day of course! September 28 was World Rabies Day, and all around the world people came together to raise awareness about this disease and celebrate efforts to eradicate it.
This year, Dr. Imam Mzimbiri, the Serengeti Health Initiative vaccination manager, and I joined Dr. Madege from the Livestock office in Arusha for the festivities. The Serengeti Health Initiative donated 4,000 vaccine doses for vaccination activities around Arusha and a whole box of t-shirts for the celebration.
The day began at the VIC (Veterinary Investigation Center), where dogs were vaccinated for rabies and distemper as well as bathed in a flea-and-tick dip. We, along with most of these freshly bathed dogs, met up with the Arusha Roots and Shoots children’s club and a marching band.
With trumpets blaring and kids chanting “Tanzania bila kicha cha mbwa—naweza! Naweza!” (Tanzania without rabies—yes we can!), we set off in our parade through the middle of Arusha. We were accompanied by an army escort…complete with their own freshly vaccinated dog, “Kiu.”
Although we stopped traffic multiple times, we took this as an opportunity to distribute pamphlets about rabies and rabies prevention. Most of the motorists were actually quite content with this rather unusual traffic jam, perhaps because they got to enjoy some of the marching band music?
We marched just over 2 kilometers to a clearing where representatives from the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture shared their hopes for rabies eradication in Tanzania, and we were treated to singing and dancing from the children’s group. We had a great turnout and joined the millions of people worldwide in spreading rabies awareness.
Research Coordinator Anna Czupryna studies domestic dog population dynamics near Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Her work is one part of a zoo-led vaccination campaign that protects the region’s people, pets and predators against diseases including rabies.