Health

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Pieter Malan/AP
Lobito, Angola

To Save Kids From Rabies, Angola Continues Vaccinating Stray Dogs

February 19, 2009 03:01 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Angolan children are still dying from rabies, prompting a new campaign to vaccinate stray dogs infected with the disease, which is largely neglected in Africa.

Angola Targets the Source: Dogs

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In Angola, rabies has taken 71 young lives over the past three months. Most victims are between 3 and 10 years old, and live in the capital Luanda’s “overcrowded slums,” where rabid dogs are the main source of the disease, reports the BBC. Angola has begun a massive “animal rabies vaccination scheme,” which requires finding and vaccinating Luanda’s stray dogs and cats.

The strategy of targeting dogs with rabies is not new in Angola. According to allAfrica.com, Angola's "campaign against rabies takes place every year" as part of the National Plan of Contingency and Emergency against Rabies.

In mid-January, a separate “two-day campaign aimed at eradicating rabies” took place in Angola, reported Agencia AngolaPress. Although the number of rabies cases dropped to 40,270 in 2008—from 71,369 in 2007—the situation in Luanda province was considered “emergency and urgent” at year’s end, prompting the campaign.

According to ScienceDaily, most of the 24,000 rabies deaths in Africa affect children in poor and rural areas. Preventing and treating rabies is expensive, “and the necessary resources often scarce or inadequate.” Focusing on dogs, the main source of rabies, is more feasible and therefore crucial to the eradication program.

A study conducted by scientists from the United States, Africa and France determined that the source of most rabies cases in dogs in central and western Africa is “a common ancestor introduced to the continent around 200 years ago, probably by European colonialists,” according to ScienceDaily.

Background: Strife and poverty in Angola

After a 27-year civil war, peace finally came to Angola in 2002. By 2007, many Angolans were put back to work “rebuilding roads, airports, bridges and railways,” reported The New York Times. However, despite the country’s lucrative oil and diamond mining industries, most citizens live in poverty. Critics of Angola’s government say wealthy, self-serving officials are holding back progress.

Reference: Rabies in Africa and Asia

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