Donkeys pulling cart in Zimbabwe

In a country brought to its knees by political and economic problems, SPANA is providing a lifeline for animals in Zimbabwe and their owners. Launched in 2013, SPANA provides critically important veterinary care to both urban and rural working animals across the country.

Zimbabwe at a glance

• Population: 16.2 million
• Area: 390,757 km2
• Location: Southern Africa
• Capital city: Harare
• Estimated working equine population: 662,230

SPANA Operations

SPANA vets examing a donkey's eye

Veterinary Care:

• SPANA launched a permanent presence in Zimbabwe in 2013, following a successful partnership project with a local charity
• SPANA’s two vets, Dr Erick and Dr Andy, travel thousands of miles in the mobile veterinary clinics to help working donkeys throughout the country
• Around 72 per cent of the population live in poverty in Zimbabwe’s rural areas and the mobile veterinary clinics are the only way for people to access veterinary care for the animals they rely upon
• Two mobile veterinary clinics visit smaller towns, villages and rural communities in six provinces
• Nearly 74,000 treatments given to working animals in the last year

Last year, in its first full year of operation, the SPANA Wild About Animals exhibition outside Harare was visited by 12,300 children from almost 40 local schools. Lesson packs were handed out to more than 100 visiting teachers.

MEET THE VET: Dr Erick Mutizhe

SPANA vet Dr Erick Mutizhe is on the road for his latest mobile veterinary clinic, a busy two-week period in the field, which he alternates with SPANA Zimbabwe’s other vet, Dr Andy Garura.

900__0141196This time Erick is travelling throughout Manicaland, a rural and isolated province in the eastern part of the country. Erick travels large distances in the mobile veterinary clinic to reach the many communities where animals require help and can treat as many as 600 donkeys during the fortnight. His day starts at 5.30am and owners arrive early in the morning with their donkeys for the clinics, which last until late into the afternoon.

So what are the main issues Erick encounters?

‘There is a great need for SPANA’s services in these areas. Wounds are a very common problem at the clinics, mostly caused by ill fitting, makeshift harnesses. We also frequently treat eye conditions, diarrhoea, lameness and respiratory problems, as well as providing necessary deworming treatments and vaccinations against rabies – as many of the donkeys come into contact with other wildlife and bites pose a risk of infection.’

Erick believes SPANA has made an important difference in educating owners and improving the welfare of Zimbabwe’s rural donkey population.

‘SPANA has made a big impact in Zimbabwe. The overall health and wellbeing of the working donkeys has already improved and in the villages we visit, the owners are more educated about how certain practices can be detrimental to their animals’ health. Without SPANA the situation would be very bad, as no free and accessible treatments would be available. These animals would otherwise be neglected and donkey welfare would continue on a downward spiral. Thanks to SPANA, this is no longer the case.’

The scale of the challenge is great, but Erick is very optimistic about the future:

There is a great deal of work to do, but we are making significant progress in helping to improve animal welfare and this can only be good for working donkeys and the livelihoods of their owners and their families.

Erick Mutizhe examines a donkey in Zimbabwe