Take a closer look
There are an estimated 1.6m working equids in Afghanistan; a country where continuous droughts, floods, harsh terrain, political uncertainty and ongoing internal warfare make it one of the most challenging to work in. The United Nation Office reported recently that 93% of the households in Afghanistan are managing their daily lives with less than $2, which shows the extreme level of poverty; in fact, it is estimated that 36% of the total population lives below the national poverty line and over 80% of equine owning communities fall within this category.
The economic dependency of these communities on their equines, and their extreme poverty have forced them to intensively utilize their animals, resulting in extremely poor health and welfare conditions. Some of the main welfare issues include poor body condition, harness wounds, external parasitic infestations, colic and lameness. Traditional practices passed down from generation to generation, such as nostril slitting can often be harmful.
The health system for equines in Afghanistan is weak, with training and services typically focussed on other livestock species. This lack of knowledge and skills in veterinary service providers means that even if owners are able to afford treatment for their equids, it cannot always be found. Additionally, the market is full of not only low-quality, but also fake medicines, crowding out the more expensive legitimate alternatives.
Being more focussed on the productivity of livestock species, there is a complete lack of national level equine-related policies, and animal welfare is an unknown concept. Local and community level policies and practices are mainly controlled by the traditional Shuras (councils), the religious leaders and the CDCs, who do not give priority to working equines.
All of these factors combine to create serious challenges to the daily lives of working equines.