Over the weekend we heard the tragic news that at least 3,617 people are now known to have died in a massive earthquake which hit Nepal on Saturday. More than 6,500 people have been injured. Thankfully, all Brooke staff members are accounted for. Communications are intermittent, but we understand all the equine owners and the equines that we work with are believed to be safe. The Brick kilns in Kathmandu have been affected with chimneys collapsing but so far there have been no reports of equines being injured by the earthquake. The roads to where the epicentre was, northwest of the capital, have been cleared and rescue teams are on their way. Rescue missions and aid are arriving in Nepal from abroad to help cope with the aftermath of the earthquake, the worst to hit Nepal for more than 80 years. Efforts to dig victims out from under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Kathmandu are also continuing. Equines and their owners will inevitably be involved in the heroic rescue efforts currently underway. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries, which is struggling to overcome the effects of ten years of civil war. Foreign aid is vital to Nepal and there is also a reliance on trade with neighbouring India. It is estimated that over 25 per cent of the 30.4 million people of Nepal live in poverty.
Most of the country is dependent on agriculture and it’s estimated that 100,000 working horses and donkeys play an important role in supporting the livelihoods of approximately one million people.
The Brooke programme follows two different kinds of approaches, i.e. extensive in the hills (across nine districts) and intensive in the plains (across five districts) - grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas.
In the hills the equines are used for transportation of goods and the responsibility of equine care is on owners and/or handlers (a hired person by owners). Normally these equines are the secondary source of business and it is not uncommon for one equine owner to have seven to eight equines, which are scattered throughout the nine districts. Equine owners are capable of paying for equine health care but there are very few or no equine health practitioners in these areas.
In the plains the equines are mainly used for transportation of people by cart; however since 2012 our work has extended intensively to focus on the horses, donkeys and mules used in the brick kilns of Kathmandu where they are required to carry heavy loads of bricks for long distances. The responsibility of equine care is on the owners themselves and equines are normally their primary source of income. It is common for each equine owner to have only one or two equines, and unlike those in the hills, they are concentrated in a small area. There is no availability of equine health practitioners and most of the owners cannot afford to pay for their equine’s health care.
It is estimated that only 3–5 per cent of the country’s vet services reach animal owners because there is limited technical expertise and it is generally only available in cities or major districts. The main welfare problems seen include a lack of appropriate feed, water, shelter, vaccination programmes and poor understanding of animal welfare: preventable wounds, lameness, colic, injuries and diseases are routine issues.
Making a difference
- Since 2008 we have been working to measurably improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules by working in partnership with Animal Health Training and Consultancy Service (AHTCS), an experienced organisation established in Nepal in 2000. We are working in 18 districts namely, Kaski, Lamjung, Gorkha, Myagdi, Baglung, Parbat, Chitwan, Bajura, Udayapur, Illam, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Banke, Bardiya, Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.
- AHTCS has a proven track record running quality projects, and has strong links with policy-makers in Nepal.
- We train and strengthen animal health workers in areas where local health providers are unavailable, providing five weeks’ training for suitable candidates. We also encourage linkages between local service providers and equine owners/groups/unions.
- We supply first aid kits to working horses and donkeys to minimize the pain and suffering caused by injury or wounds on long journeys in remote areas.
- We further provide emergency and regular treatment to equines, assist community group formations and mobilisation, encourage welfare message dissemination and improve knowledge and skill enhancement of equine owners.
More information about our partners can be found here
Read about some of the work we're doing in Nepal here and here