Consortium Implementing Partner
Mayhew Afghanistan (MA) has been selected as the Consortium Implementing Partner (CIP) for Kabul.
MA is an outgrowth of the Mayhew in London, an animal shelter that was originally established in 1886. For 120 years, it was mainly a local shelter serving communities in North London but, in 2007, Caroline Yates took over as the CEO of Mayhew and began an international program. Mayhew International was formally established in 2012 and is currently running projects in Afghanistan, Georgia, India and Russia.
In 2015, Mayhew International developed a proposal to conduct dog vaccination and sterilization in Kabul, Afghanistan, in part because of the hire of Dr. Abdul-Jalil Mohammadzai (“Dr. Mo”), an award-winning veterinarian from Kabul University. Mayhew Afghanistan (MA) was formally registered in 2016 to be the local NGO overseeing the dog project in Kabul and Dr. Mo serves as the Country Director and main project manager of MA.
Mayhew launched the dog project with a simple survey to count street dogs in Kabul in 2015. This was an essential first step to establish the size of the challenge they were taking on. The first survey indicated that there were at least 15,000 street dogs in the city but MA assumed the total would be approximately double this because no street dog count detects all the dogs (street dog detection rates are usually from 30-50% in a simple street survey). MA next had to persuade the Kabul Municipality to stop culling 15-20,000 street dogs a year. [Note that the culling of around two-thirds of the dog population annually had no noticeable impact on the total number of street dogs.]
MA succeeded in persuading the Municipality to stop the dog cull in January of 2017. They then had to train a team of dog catchers/vaccinators (selected from among the municipal employees who had been engaged in the dog control program) to catch and handle the street dogs humanely for vaccination and they also had to raise the funds to launch the project.
In August 2017, the rabies vaccination program started. By the end of 2017, 3,487 dogs had been vaccinated. In 2018, another 22,642 dogs had been vaccinated, of which 6,624 were private (“pet?”) dogs vaccinated during a door to door campaign. By the end of the first vaccination cycle in 2018, MA estimated that they had vaccinated 77% of the dogs in the city. In the second vaccination cycle, MA vaccinated 23,452 street dogs and 3,088 private dogs. It was estimated that almost 80% of the dogs in the city had been vaccinated after the second cycle. As Table 1 below indicates, there has been a substantial fall in human rabies cases from an average of 37 cases a year at the beginning of the decade (2010-2012) to zero at the end. The number of positive rabies cases in dogs has also fallen from 6 in 2018 to 2 so far (until the end of August) in 2020.
MA started the street dog sterilization program in 2019. From July 2019 to August 2020, MA has sterilized 8,552 dogs (almost 25% of the total dog population). See Table 1 . The pandemic has affected the sterilization project because of lockdowns but the Kabul Municipality considered the project an essential service, so staff were able to continue to catch and sterilize street dogs. Sterilization projects in other communities indicate that, if this level of sterilizations is sustained, then street dog numbers should decline and human and canine health should improve.
The dog sterilization project requires the development of sufficient veterinary capacity and expertise to sustain the program. MA succeeded in persuading Kabul University to let them use their veterinary surgery facilities for the project and have been mentoring young graduates from veterinary schools in the country. They now have a skilled team of veterinarians (including a number of young women) experienced in sterilization surgeries and canine care. MA is particularly proud of the opportunities it has afforded to Afghan women under the tutelage of Dr. Jalil Mohammadzai. MA expects these young veterinarians will, in time, end up starting and running their own clinics and veterinary practices in Afghanistan.
MA is also tracking human behavior changes. Perhaps the most dramatic change has been in the public attitude to the street dog catching and handling teams. During the dog cull years, these municipal workers were abused and shunned. Now, they are being viewed as trusted sources of information on dog behavior and management and a few street dogs have been adopted into homes by members of the MA team.
The Kabul dog vaccination and sterilization project has been doing so well that the central government is expressing interest in expanding the program to other cities in Afghanistan. Dr. Mo has recently been invited to be a member of the National Zoonosis and Rabies Control Program of the Ministry of Public Health. It is estimated that dealing with rabies and dog bites costs Afghanistan around $70 million a year. The vaccination and sterilization programs in Kabul have been funded at less than 1% of that figure so there are clearly economic and public health benefits to expanding the dog sterilization and vaccination program, not to mention the well-being benefits for the dogs.
As the program continues to track progress and document its impact, it will become a model for other countries to emulate leading to improved well-being for people and animals.