A donkey waits for treatment for lameness in Mali

Nene the donkey was in pain, struggling to walk more than a few steps at a time. For his owner Moala, who lives with a disability and relies on Nene for his own independence, the prospect of life without his animal was unimaginable. Read how SPANA vets intervened to get Nene back on his feet.

For many remote communities in the West African nation of Mali, life is difficult. With vast distances separating people from schools, hospitals and even clean drinking water, working animals aren’t a luxury here, they’re a necessity. For Moala, who lives with a disability, his reliance on his donkey, Nene, is even greater than most. So when Nene became lame, Moala knew that without intervention, his independence and ability to support his family were in serious jeopardy.

Two donkey owners wait for treatment for their donkey's lameness

Although Moala can comfortably move about his home on his crutches, the great distances that most villagers walk are too difficult for him to manage. But, with Nene’s help, Moala can earn a steady income delivering fresh drinking water and firewood to villages across the region. The money he makes goes to fund his two children’s education; Nene pulls them to and from school every day. Moala hopes that their education will provide them with a bright future and more opportunities than he had. Central to all of his family’s hopes, dreams and aspirations is Nene, who dutifully serves as the economic backbone of his family.

One day, while Nene was pulling water barrels back to the village, he stumbled and cried out in pain. Moala jumped off the cart to examine him but didn’t see any obvious injuries and the pair continued home. However, the next day Moala came out to Nene’s shelter to find the donkey hobbling and favouring his right back leg.

SPANA vets treat a donkey for lameness in Mali

Moala rested Nene for two days during which time he was unable to continue his water delivery work or bring his children to school. Villagers who rely exclusively on this daily water supply were worried – how would they get clean drinking water for their families and livestock without Nene’s work? Moala was equally concerned about his children’s education and knew that every day Nene was lame was another day that his children missed critically important lessons.

As both owner and donkey were unable to travel, Moala knew that his only hope was in the form of the SPANA mobile clinic, a critically important lifeline in otherwise unreachable regions of the country. For animals too sick or injured to walk, this service means the difference between immediate medical help and unnecessary suffering.

Moala immediately called Dr Amadou and his team to come to the rescue. Within two hours, the team were with Moala and Nene, carefully examining the donkey’s foot to identify the cause of his lameness. The vets realised that a small piece of rock had pierced the side of his hoof and was now painfully embedded in the flesh. As a result of an infection, an abscess had formed and without intervention, might spread and cause permanent lameness.

SPANA vets disinfect a donkey's hoof wound

The team first disinfected the area before lancing and draining the abscess and finally removing the sharp piece of stone. Nene’s relief was immediate.

The vets then dressed the injury after showing Moala how to keep the wound clean and free of debris while it healed. They left the grateful owner with a full course of antibiotics to fight any residual infection and anti-inflammatories to ease Nene’s pain.

Across much of the developing world, many of those living with a disability rely on working animals like Nene, providing independence and financial stability. Moala explained what Nene means to him, saying;

I am disabled and rely on my donkey. I couldn’t survive without him. I have known about SPANA’s work for a few years now and always turn to them for help.

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