Big Picture Newsletter, March 2017

Caring for animals in Canada's north, a successful campaign, hard times in South Sudan, volunteer.


Supporting Animal Health in Canada’s North

In early 2017 VWB/VSF launched an expanded initiative to support Canada’s veterinary colleges in providing veterinary care to remote, underserved communities in Canada’s North. The initiative has received generous funding from Vetoquinol and travel support from the Aeroplan Member Donation Program.To date, the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, the Faculté de médicine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, and the Atlantic Veterinary College at UPEI have signed on to the program. All have previous experience coordinating veterinary programs in remote communities. While the current agreements are for one year, VWB/VSF is hoping that the coordinated effort will become a permanent program.As with previous efforts, the focus of the initiative will be the health of dogs, ensuring that they are vaccinated against diseases such as rabies, parvo virus and distemper, and are treated for illness and injury. Spaying and neutering services are also available and treatment will also be offered to cats and other animals as needed.  The importance of working with communitiesCommunity partnerships are critically important to the success of these programs. The longstanding relationship between northern peoples and dogs continues to evolve, and recognition of the historical and cultural context of this relationship is an important element in the implementation of any veterinary services program. All of the veterinary colleges involved in the initiative have experience partnering with northern communities, and respect and understand the context in which they are working. For example, the 10 year old University of Calgary program in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories works with schools in order to engage youth volunteers in running the clinics. Some of these youth have gone on to pursue health-related careers. Fourth-year vet students are prepared for their 2.5 week immersion in the Sahtu through a week of training in cultural awareness, veterinary practice in remote regions, and public health and policy issues.  The Université de Montréal has addressed the changing relationship between dogs and humans in Nunavik (Northern Quebec) through research as well as education programs in schools. That work is designed to reduce the number of dog bites suffered by children. The Université de Montréal has also created a first aid kit for dogs and has instructed local people in its use.The UPEI program in Labrador has worked with First Nation’s band councils to control the number of roaming dogs through a registry and by implanting microchips. The Lac LaRonge Band Council has been instrumental in organization the WCVM’s mobile clinics in Northern Saskatchewan. Before participating in the clinics, veterinary students complete a cultural awareness seminar highlighting the history and culture of Saskatchewan’s First Nations people. For VWB/VSF this initiative represents an important step forward in improving access to veterinary care for underserved Canadian communities.

 Fundraising Campaign 2016

We Reached our Goal!

A wildlife viewing safari at the Zulu Nyala safari camp was the centrepiece of our online auction.  This is what the lucky bidder has to look forward to!
A huge thank-you to everyone who contributed to our annual holiday fundraising campaign.  We set an ambitious target this year -- $30,000 – and our supporters came through.  Including the money raised through a very successful on-line auction we exceeded our target by at least $5,000.

Thanks also to our volunteers. The money they raise to help cover the costs of their missions is not included in the campaign total. By reaching out to friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues, and by holding fundraising events and activities, our volunteers are doing much more than raising money.  They are also spreading the word about the good work that VWB/VSF is doing around the world. Every contribution is important, no matter how small. Thank you for helping us make the world a better place.
Hard times do not stop progress in South Sudan

In spite of difficult circumstances, VWB/VSF and its partners VSF Germany and VSF Suisse have made remarkable gains in their efforts to improve food security among small holder farmers in two regions of South Sudan. With the current project set for completion in March of 2017, the partners are pushing hard to help as many people as possible.Times are tough in South Sudan. A lethal combination of conflict, hyper-inflation, and regional food shortages in Eastern Africa has pushed food insecurity in South Sudan to the highest levels since 2010. According to the latest report from the World Food Program’s Foods Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS) more than two thirds of the households in South Sudan are facing moderate to severe food insecurity with the real prospect of hunger or even starvation for as many as 5 million people.
In mid-February the situation deteriorated further with the announcement that a famine had been declared in parts of Unity State.  A famine is not declared until people are actually dying from starvation.
Yet the VWB/VSF team has recorded remarkable success. So far, 150 community animal health workers have been trained and have received supply kits to allow them to perform basic animal health services. In turn they have vaccinated and treated the animals of some 2,000 smallholder livestock owners. Animal traction training is also proceeding well.  This is an intensive, three week program that not only teaches farmers to work effectively with draught animals – both donkeys and oxen – but provides them with the skills to teach other farmers. Trainees learn how to select the animals for training, how to safely and humanely harness and train them, effective cultivation techniques, including spacing and weeding, and how to integrate animal ploughs into conservation agriculture practices on the farm. More than 400 farmers, both men and women, have completed the training.
More than a dozen farmer field schools have been initiatied through the project, training farmers to produce more and better food, and providing an avenue for the distribution of seeds and tools. That includes 3,000 mango seedlings that have been distributed to 900 individuals. As well, 11 women’s vegetable production groups have been formed, and five of them have been equipped with treadle pumps to allow them to irrigate their crops during the long dry season.  A number of wells have also been dug for that purpose. Several hundred people, mostly girls and women, have been training in the hygienic handling of milk and milk products and in marketing milk and vegetables. 
This project is a complex and multi-faceted one, but the goal is simple – help farmers produce as much food as possible to feed themselves, their families, and help them make a modest living.  Clearly, VWB/VSF’s project alone will not stave of catastrophe.  But even as relief programs are gearing up to prevent a humanitarian disaster, this project, and others like it, are taking the longer view to a time when South Sudan will be able to feed itself once again. This project is funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.  
Canadian vets at work in Kenya
Veterinarians Laura-Anne Kutryk (left) and Jessica Gonzales (centre) make a farm visit during their volunteer assignment with VWB/VSF. They were at the farm of Nyaki Dairy Co-op Director Rachel and her husband Jeffery, at the right of the photo, to examine cattle for mastitis and to demonstrate treatment. Translator Steve is also in the photo. We are always looking for volunteers with a wide range of skills. If you want to do good while having an adventure go to to check out our current placements. We may have the perfect opportunity for you!

The Big Picture

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Big Picture - Big IssuesExplore some of the issues that challenge us.
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South Sudan

South SudanBy helping small farmers and fishers produce more and better food, we are working to reduce hunger in this troubled nation.
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VolunteerLearn about our new project, Volunteers for Healthy Animals and Healthy Communities.
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