OTTAWA, ON, July 7, 2023 – Volunteers from Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Canada (VWB/VSF) recently joined local partners to assist in a vaccination campaign across northeastern Ghana in response to a recent anthrax outbreak amongst farm animals in the region. Three of VWB/VSF’s volunteers from our Young Volunteer Program (YVP) – (part of our VETS program, which is funded by Global Affairs Canada) – teamed up with our on-the-ground partner to vaccinate sheep, goats, and cattle across regions in northeastern Ghana. These vaccinations fall within the One Health model (healthy animals, healthy people, and a healthy environment), through which VWB/VSF operates.
Although the word "anthrax" often conjures ideas influenced by historical events and media coverage, (e.g., in North America, the 2001 anthrax attacks), it is a naturally-occurring disease that effects animals, and humans, globally.
"Anthrax is a zoonotic disease that can be found around the world but is a particularly important cause of disease in sub–Saharan Africa”, said Dr. William de Glanville, Animal Health and Zoonotic Disease Technical Advisor at VWB/VSF. “It can be highly fatal to domestic and wild animals and can also cause severe illness, potentially including death, in people coming into contact with infected animals, which makes animal vaccination campaigns key to protecting both animals and people,” said de Glanville. “In countries like Ghana, animal vaccinations can not only ensure that animals and their keepers remain healthy, but also help protect household livelihoods against the often economically devastating impacts of the loss of livestock due to diseases like anthrax. Anthrax spores can live deep in the soil for decades, so environmental impacts such as heavy rainfall in washing away topsoil can expose animals to infection and lead to new outbreaks in heavily affected countries. As climate change advances, the risks for zoonotic diseases like anthrax are likely to become greater due to changes in weather patterns and the way people and animals interact with their environments,” added de Glanville.
The team of VWB/VSF YVP volunteers currently in Ghana includes Keisha Harris, a recent graduate from Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), Marley Blok, a recent graduate from UBC’s Bachelor of Science program, and Sandra Nyman, a second-year student at OVC. They’re working with our on-the-ground partner, GAPNET, to strengthen the health of farm animals and communities that depend on them, through vaccinations, animal health/welfare assessments, community animal health worker training, and more. All three volunteers arrived for their placements in May and are set to finish in August.
“Supporting adequate farm animal welfare and husbandry techniques can increase animal production and ultimately positively impact the farmers socioeconomic status,” explained Blok. “Additionally, supporting animal health can increase diversity of local ecosystems which can ultimately have positive effects on the surrounding communities.
VWB/VSF’s VETS program is funded through Global Affairs Canada and aims at improving the economic and social well-being of the world’s most marginalized people, particularly women and girls, in six countries across Africa and Asia. By providing, and implementing, vaccinations for animals, the VETS program is working towards a One Health model that’s helping to build a healthier future.
Dr. de Glanville, along with Keisha, Marley, and Sandra are available for interview upon request.
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About Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires Sans Frontières
Using a One Health approach, Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB) works for, and with, communities in need to foster the health of animals, people and the environments that sustain us. VWB works in Africa and Asia to improve the living conditions of the most disadvantaged rural populations through veterinary and agricultural services, sustainable animal production, training, value chain development and sustainable natural resource management. Additionally, we support remote Northern Canadian communities to improve animal health through temporary spay and neuter clinics, reduce the spread of rabies, and work to create the conditions for long-term, community-led sustainable animal health services. VWB/VSF also responds to crises, worldwide, and is currently providing emergency support in Ukraine, Pakistan, South Sudan, and Turkey to address the growing needs of animals and communities.
Learn more at vetswithoutborders.ca