Since January Brooke has been receiving reports of disease outbreaks affecting - often fatally - donkeys across seven West African countries. In Niger alone the death toll so far is 62,000 animals. This has huge animal welfare implications and it impacts heavily on the livelihoods of families who rely on animals for their income, food, water and transport.
The disease is thought to be equine influenza, but local veterinary laboratories have limited capacity and equipment to identify the cause. The lack of a confirmed diagnosis means that, for the moment, options for stopping the spread of the disease are limited.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has suggested the outbreak may be a consequence of the unregulated global movement and trading of donkeys for their skins. Nigeria is a hub for donkey slaughter in the region as the trade remains legal in this country. There is also significant illegal movement of animals from surrounding countries in which donkey slaughter has been banned. In Niger, the likely origin of the infection is racehorses imported from Nigeria.
Brooke is at the forefront of the response on the ground, working closely with local veterinary services to diagnose and prevent the spread of the disease.
Identifying the cause of the disease is the most important first step, and we are working closely with the Animal Health Trust to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Together, we have offered diagnostic support to the Ministries of Livestock and Agriculture in Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
Brooke West Africa is training government officials and private veterinarians in Burkina Faso and Niger to improve identification and treatment of the disease. We have also developed resources for owners on how to protect their animals from infection.
Brooke is monitoring the situation on the ground and coordinating surveillance amongst government veterinary services, the OIE and other relevant international bodies.
We are working in collaboration with other organisations through the International Coalition for Working Equids to raise awareness and co-ordinate a response in the region.
If a diagnosis of equine influenza is confirmed, the best way of controlling it is by vaccination. Brooke will work with organisations such as pharmaceutical companies, government veterinary services and the private animal health system to find the best way of implementing this.
Thousands of donkeys are being stolen, abused and slaughtered to meet the demand for their hides.
Brooke is deeply concerned about donkeys being stolen and abused for their hides.
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