A moment of truly unprecedented need

 

SPANA Chief Executive, Geoffrey Dennis, explains how we’re coming to terms with the Covid-19 crisis.

It’s safe to say that the Covid-19 crisis is by far the most serious situation I have encountered in my time at SPANA, with consequences that could last for years to come. The impact of the emergency lockdown measures on working animals really can’t be overstated. Animals who struggle at the best of times are fighting for their very survival right now, facing abandonment, malnutrition, dehydration and traffic accidents, and developing deadly conditions such as colic as a result of eating plastic out of hunger and desperation.

We’re doing everything we can to ensure that working animals don’t suffer as a result of this crisis. Our veterinary centres remain open to treat emergency cases, while our mobile clinics continue to run a reduced service. Wherever possible, we’re working with government veterinary agencies to ensure animals in more remote locations get the help they so desperately need. We’re also continuing to support all of our partnerships with other organisations.

I’m extremely pleased that we’ve been able to set up our emergency relief programmes, which will go some way to combatting the effects of the lockdown in the short term.

I am keeping in extremely close contact with our country offices to ensure we’re aware of the situation on the ground and doing everything we can to help working animals in their time of need.

Many of the countries we work in are still in lockdown, though some, such as Mauritania, are starting to open up somewhat. However, the economic effects of the crisis are likely to last for years to come, and the fact that Mauritania is currently experiencing a prolonged drought is a stark reminder that, even beyond Covid-19, the challenges that working animals face are very serious.

At a time when companies and whole industries are suffering, we are extremely grateful for the loyalty of our supporters. It is only thanks to your kindness, compassion and generosity that we have been able to keep going and provide emergency support to the working animals of the world. To everyone who has donated to our Covid-19 crisis appeal, thank you. It will mean the difference between life and death for many of these poor animals.

This crisis also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the sustainability of our projects. In the last issue I talked about the value of community training projects. At times like this, when we are unable to reach remote communities as we would like, projects that embed knowledge and responsibility in the community are more important than ever in ensuring working animals have people who will stand up for their welfare. In Ethiopia, the local community is taking over ownership of the emergency water programme we set up. Through making and selling goods and asking for very small donations from beneficiaries, they are able to keep their wells running sustainably.

The crisis should also make all of us reflect on the role of animals in human welfare. Hopefully, an increased focus on the movement of animals and animal products around the world will attract more global attention to the devastating donkey skin trade, which has cruelly taken the lives of so many working donkeys across Africa.

I wish I was writing this in better circumstances, but I am confident that, together, we can navigate the current crisis and ensure working animals don’t bear the brunt of it. We must hope that the world that emerges on the other side will be a more caring and compassionate one.

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