Light brown horse with white nose, held by man in grey hoodie, being tended by a vet in dark blue overalls

In March, Veterinary Programme Advisor Dr Victoria Phillips joined the SPANA team. Having mostly worked with small animals over the past 12 years, Victoria was excited to apply her veterinary skills to working animals, a new challenge for the young vet. Read about her first impressions of our work in Ethiopia, and the role that clinical skills training and education plays in expanding SPANA’s reach. 

As one of my first trips with SPANA, I was excited to travel to Ethiopia alongside my colleague, Dr Mathilde Merridale, to see first-hand the impact that our vet team is having in the country. Having enjoyed Ethiopia as a tourist a few years ago, I couldn’t wait to experience the country and food again, and to see how SPANA operates in some of the most rural regions.

Victoria Phillips

I was travelling to the town of Debre Zeyit, not only to see our veterinary work in action, but also to visit the fourth and fifth year veterinary students building their skills and experience under the guidance of the SPANA vet team. This is critically important as it ensures that communities can rely on skilled local Ethiopian vets who know the country, language and specific challenges facing working animals here.

Animals are a lifeline

Debre Zeyit is only an hour and a half south of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, but feels a world away from the busy metropolis. The open plains of Ethiopia’s farmland stretched out in all directions and as we drove we passed hundreds of working horses, donkey and camels – clear evidence that these animals are the lifeline of local economies here.

We were greeted by Dr Hanna Zewdu, SPANA Ethiopia’s lead vet. Dr Hanna, a highly skilled and experienced vet, has been an integral part of the SPANA team for many years and welcomed us with a tour of the facilities. We gave Hanna and the team the large suitcase of supplies we had brought with us from London, full of homemade nose bands and fly fringes kindly donated by our supporters, as well as diagnostic equipment essential for their ongoing work.

SPANA Ethiopia Centre

An oasis of calm

The SPANA site is an oasis of calm in the busy town. The leafy, green centre boasts a clinical treatment area, stables, an education project and a clinical skills centre where young vets hone their technical skills. Animals brought here in discomfort can recover in a peaceful and nurturing environment; and it was fantastic to see such comfortable facilities.

One of the main purposes of our visit was to provide technical training to students and staff, showing them how to use radiographic, ophthalmologic and ultrasound technology donated to the centre by our kind supporters. The team was especially eager to learn more about the centre’s ultrasound machine, a highly effective diagnostic tool that allows the team to quickly and painlessly identify illness and injury in our animal patients.

SPANA vet victoria teaching vet students about ultrasound

Hands on training

Over the next two days, we provided technical training to 70 enthusiastic students who were delighted to receive hands on training. It was rewarding to see such young, passionate trainee vets developing their skills so quickly and it was all the more inspiring to know how many horses, donkeys and mules would benefit directly from their knowledge. The training immediately paid off when the SPANA team put their new skills to good use in diagnosing a horse with colic. They were able to quickly identify the cause of the condition and provide lifesaving relief to the distressed animal.

I was struck by the dedication and knowledge of our SPANA Ethiopia team and the incredibly hard work that they undertake day after day in the clinic. As I visit SPANA’s clinics around the world, I am excited to see how the skills we teach during training workshops are immediately put to good use on the hundreds of working animals that so desperately need our help. What’s more, it’s fantastic to know I’m working for an organisation so well regarded and embraced by local communities – proof that SPANA is not only helping working animals in need, but also changing attitudes in their owners at the same time.

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2 comments on “A vet’s first impressions of Ethiopia

  1. Sue Langford on

    An excellent article , and hopefully one that will bring SPANA’s work to a larger audience . Well done Victoria !


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