27 January 2020

Owners dress donkeys in human clothes to protect them from deadly flies in Kenya

As the worst swarms of locusts in 25 years continue to threaten food supplies in parts of East Africa, the Middle East and Asia, donkey owners in Kenya have been desperately trying to protect their animals from biting flies, using human clothes to offer protection. Brooke East Africa and its partner, Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (KENDAT), successfully treated 736 donkeys start of January 2020, after a three day outbreak of deadly stable flies killed up to 60 donkeys in the eastern county of Meru in Kenya.

The flies, Stomoxys Calcitrans, descended upon the area after an extended period of heavy rain following two years of drought. The flies began biting and sucking the blood of animals, leaving them with gaping wounds and highly vulnerable to infection. Donkey owners decided to protect their animals by covering them in human trousers and blankets.

After being alerted to the issue, Brooke and KENDAT gathered a team of local stakeholders, including the county veterinary department, Chuka University and pharmaceutical companies. Together the team identified the best course of treatment for the animals; a combination of drugs, wound management and pesticide spraying. The team also treated 10 dogs.   

Whilst the sight of donkeys wearing human clothing might be amusing, it also shows the lengths people will go to protect their animals and how much they value them. Donkeys are sometimes the only means which poor women and men in rural and urban communities use to transport food, water and other goods for domestic use and generation income; so losing them can be disastrous. Brooke was pleased to offer vital intervention after identifying the source of the issue, ensuring these hard working donkeys could feed once again, free of biting.

Elijah Mithigi, Brooke East Africa Programme Manager,

The team visited the owners again six days later and found that the flies had disappeared and inflicted wounds were healing.

Kenya’s drought-prone climate ensures that plagues of locusts and other flies may occur intermittently. However, the FAO has described the current outbreak of locusts as an ‘extremely alarming’ and ‘unprecedented threat’. Whilst the health of animals is not directly at risk from such creatures, the depletion of crops and, therefore, livelihoods, could have a devastating effect.