Keeping Equines Healthy: Brooke India Provides Veterinary Services During COVID-19
India announced a countrywide lockdown on 24 March 2020, following the increase in COVID-19 cases in the country. Just prior to the announcement, the central government released an exhaustive list of essential items and services, which included veterinary services.
The Government of India wrote a letter to State Chief Secretaries - the seniormost position held in the state-level government - stating that veterinary hospitals and dispensaries, including private veterinary clinics, veterinary pathologies and animal shelters, should function in the normal course. The letter mentioned that emergency services such as disease diagnosis and treatment, monitoring of emergency livestock and poultry diseases, and immediate disease reporting should be an essential service. Strict instructions were issued to veterinary staff to ensure they adhered to personal safety and hygiene. The Animal Welfare Board of India also issued an advisory to the state governments and law enforcement agencies to ensure that animals do not suffer from hunger during the lockdown.
Brooke India immediately responded to the situation, and reached out to various central, state and local bodies conveying our availability of skilled veterinary staff, and our reach in ten states. The communication was sent to the State Animal Husbandry Departments, National Disaster Management Authority, State Disaster Management Authorities, District Magistrates, National Institution for Transforming India, and the All India Brick and Tile Manufacturing Federation.
Special COVID-19 passes were initially obtained by staff of Brooke India's 10 Partner Equine Welfare Units. These passes enabled smooth movement of our field staff, allowing them to handle severe cases including equine colic (abdominal pain), abortion and eye injuries. We trained animal-health practitioners linked with our community-based organisations, who were also issued special passes for handling equine emergencies. Given these authorities would be extremely busy and the information furnished to them could take time to percolate, Brooke India, through its network of NGO partners in ten states, began contacting other state officials and local government staff, and obtained additional special vehicle passes to facilitate movement during the lockdown for providing emergency veterinary treatment as per government instructions.
Brooke India is now not only treating the emergency cases, but its vehicles are also being used to take Government Veterinary Officers to treat suffering equines, as no other mode of transport is available. The vehicle passes have proven to be a huge asset and are serving as an emergency medium for the poorest of our beneficiaries. To date, Brooke India and its partners have treated more than 250 emergency cases.
Since Brooke India began visiting the sites and addressing emergency treatments, they have given the community renewed confidence and a number of equine owners showed their gratitude towards our staff for remembering them during these difficult times. Staff are also taking this opportunity to inspect the area and gather information on delivery of emergency rations in the vicinity, as state governments have made provisions to provide basic food (rice and wheat) to low-income earners. In case the ration has not reached a particular area, Brooke India staff report it to district officials, who then facilitate its issuing.
We are urging supporters to donate to our COVID-19 emergency appeal to help people and their horses, donkeys and mules during this critical time. Working animals are essential to the survival of these communities, as they provide vital medical transport and access to food and water.