Featured Article - 13 November 2023
From Tragedy to Hope: My Journey to End Rabies in My Community
GARC Editor’s note:
The author of this article is a Bronze Dog Health Champion, who is sharing his inspiring journey and profound involvement in the critical mission of rabies elimination.
In 2013, a terrible and scary incident involving rabies happened in our community. Although I wasn't present when it happened, the ripple effects of that day would soon inspire me to take action and become an advocate for the cause of ending rabies.
It all started with a seemingly innocuous encounter: a street dog randomly appeared near a group of boys who were playing. A simple attempt to chase the dog away led to a tragic outcome as one of them was bitten. Unfortunately, they were not aware of what to do when bitten and therefore never washed the wound. More tragically, the boy never made it to the hospital to get rabies vaccination. The lack of awareness about rabies and was scary as no one knew what to do and there was little knowledge about rabies in the community.
Six months later, the boy who had been bitten began to exhibit symptoms of rabies. This incident marked a terrifying first for our community, as it was the first fatality due to a dog bite and subsequent rabies-like symptoms that we had experienced. The situation deeply unsettled me because the victim was a friend we used to play with. Our community's reaction was mixed, with some clinging to unfounded beliefs while others recognized the link between the dog bite and the tragic outcome.
My commitment and dedication to combating rabies stems from that awful day in 2013. The loss of a community member due to a lack of awareness and veterinary services prompted me to pursue a degree in Veterinary Medicine at the university. I then started my own research about rabies and had a better understanding of the disease. My university studies had equipped me with knowledge about rabies and its effects, but it left me pondering those who had missed out on higher education.
At the time, our community's knowledge of rabies was far from adequate, but it motivated me to act. I was determined to ensure that everyone understood what rabies was, its effects, and how to prevent it.
As a result, I embarked on a mission to create an educational program aimed at both secondary and primary school students. The program would cover the causes, effects, and prevention of rabies. To aid in this endeavor, I considered printing posters provided by GARC. My commitment extended further as I dedicated my time to vaccinating dogs, a crucial step in preventing rabies transmission.
During my time at the university, I became a part of a rabies elimination club as a One Health program participant. In 2020, I actively participated in a rabies vaccination campaign supervised by the FAO, all under the same program. This experience provided me with essential knowledge on handling and vaccinating dogs, including courses offered by GARC and supporting materials in PDF format. These resources bolstered my competence in managing dogs in my daily veterinary activities and expanded my expertise on rabies prevention and elimination.
I've since utilized this knowledge to educate fellow community members, raising awareness about rabies prevention and imparting first-aid measures in case of dog bites.
Looking forward, I have outlined a plan to vaccinate approximately 500 dogs from October to December 2023. Furthermore, I'm committed to delivering educational sessions on rabies, first-aid practices, and rabies elimination techniques to students in three primary schools and two secondary schools in my community.
I would like to extend my thanks for the "Want a Friend" booklet for children and awareness posters provided by GARC. I want to assure you that I will put these resources to good use throughout my program, aiming to make a substantial impact on rabies prevention and education in my community. Together, we can end rabies and ensure a safer, healthier future for all.
Author: Aporinary Ponsiani Magongo, Tanzania