With almost half the population living on less than $1.25 a day, many Lao people suffer along with their animals when disease outbreaks occur. Zoonoses, diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, are common. Both people and animals in rural Laos also experience widespread malnutrition.
Subsistence farming and animal husbandry also mean that communities are very vulnerable when drought, pest outbreaks or disease strikes. The loss of a single cow can mean the difference between basic survival and destitution. With outbreaks of deadly diseases such as foot and mouth or hemorrhagic septicemia, common occurrences, many families struggle just to feed their children, let alone save for school and medical fees.
Small Steps to Great Solutions
Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontières has a long and productive history in Laos. Over the past few years VWB/VSF has worked with the national University of Laos (NUOL) to improve livestock production, including vaccination campaigns, to reduce the threat of rabies through vaccination, and to train local community-based primary health workers. VWB/VSF continues to support NUOL by providing skilled volunteers to assist in their various activities. As well, VWB/VSF is working with two NGO partners, Health Poverty Action and CARE, on health and livelihoods projects for poor, rural people.
Over the five years of the Volunteers for Healthy Animals and Healthy Communities program, VWB/VSF will recruit a wide range of skilled volunteers to work with NUOL. They include veterinary lecturers, field veterinarians, veterinary clinic management advisors, lab specialists, gender advisors, English as a second language teachers, and monitoring and evaluations specialists. VWB/VSF is supporting Health Poverty Action by recruiting veterinarians to support the livestock element of a rural livelihoods project working with goats, poultry and pigs. A value chain advisor will also worth with that project to improve the production processing and marketing of coffee. Volunteer veterinarians are also supporting a CARE project, offering training to local government staff as well as farmers and women’s groups as well as human nutritionists to work with local people to improve their health by improving diets.