MAFFS Official Says 1,071 Animal Bites Reported
September 29, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
An official of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), Dr. Amadu Tejan Jalloh, has said there were one thousand and seventy-one cases of animal bites reported in Sierra Leone since the beginning of 2017.
Dr. Jalloh, who was speaking yesterday at an event organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in commemoration of the World Rabies Day at Njala Venue in Freetown, said according to epidemiological report of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), ten districts reported animal bite cases.
“In one week, Koinadugu district reported five cases, Kono five, Moyamba three and Tonkolili three, making it the highest number of cases of animal bite reported in a week. Four deaths related to clinical rabies cases have been reported since the beginning of this year,” he said, adding that three of those cases were from Kenema and one from Kono districts respectively.
He said the cumulative incidence rate of animal bites since the beginning of 2017 is 15 cases per one hundred thousand (100,000) population.
Dr. Jalloh said rabies is an epidemic in Sierra Leone and that it is posing a serious threat to food security, noting that as a ministry, they have assiduously worked with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to come up with a national strategy for the elimination of rabies in the country by 2030.
Speaking on the theme: “Zero human death from rabies by 2030”, Assistant Representative of FAO, Joseph Brima, said they have come a long way in combating the disease, but noted that there are still some challenges, thereby calling on MDAs including other partners to put resources together to eliminate it.
He said the World Rabies Day was a day put aside to raise awareness on the danger of rabies and how it would be eliminated.
“There are many livestock-related diseases in Sierra Leone but there is no infrastructure to deal with such diseases. There is no veterinary institute in Sierra Leone and because of that government sends people out of the country to be trained as veterinary officers. There are very a few veterinary officers in the country because many of them have retired and the energetic youth are not ready to embark on such activity,” he said.
He said there was no required laboratory in the country but with funds from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), FAO was about to set up the laboratory at Tekoh in Makeni.
He said there are a huge number of stray dogs in Sierra Leone especially in Freetown, noting that rabies is unrecognized but has serious effects on humans.
“In order to raise the awareness on the elimination of rabies, we need to engage the media in a well constructive manner that will enable the practitioners to carry out the message in a positive way. FAO is committed to providing the technical assistance so that the disease would be eliminated,” he said.
Health Adviser at USAID, Maria I. Busquets, said every day as she passes through the streets of Freetown, she sees many stray dogs, adding that each of those stray dogs has a potential to infect humans with rabies.
She said rabies is a solvable problem but noted that there should be concerted efforts to combat it by raising massive awareness.
Maria Busquets said USAID has supported FAO to set up a robust animal surveillance and the Tekoh laboratory is essential to eradicating rabies.
“We will have to train people on rabies detection and community awareness. USAID is committed to eradicating rabies,” he said.
Environment and Social Officer of Freetown City Council (FCC), Sulaiman Zainu Parker, said the population of dogs in the city was increasing to an extent that they now compete with humans for survival.
“Many times when stray dogs bite children, they are taken to FCC for support. Many people are seeing dogs as protectors but they don’t care for them. FCC is implementing a project in some wards in Freetown in order to take care of dogs so as to minimise the spread of rabies,” he said.