Saving animals to save lives
That weekend, a village in Upper Nile State, South Sudan was gradually filled with around 100 cows for the vaccination campaign. Chan, who directs veterinary services in the area, says, “Livestock and farming are very important parts of South Sudan’s culture. When there is vaccination, the pastoralists are active, ensuring their livestock are protected from diseases.”
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), estimates that South Sudan's livestock population is around 12 million cattle, 20 million sheep and 25 million goats, making it a world leader in terms of animal wealth per capita.
So far, the vaccination campaign has been able to provide services, including deworming, vaccination, treatment and other prevention work, to over 20,000 cows. That day, at least 15 volunteers assisted Chan in carrying out the services.
Chan explains, “These animals are the communities’ sources of milk, meat and income. In 2013 when diseases hit, at least 230 cows reportedly died in the area. That has not happened again since this programme started in 2014. I am happy working with World Vision. I really love the job.”
The expanded programme now includes market monitoring and disease surveillance. World Vision is building the volunteers’ capacity, so that they can handle all the work in the future without depending on any organisation. Many of the pastoralists can now afford to buy the vaccines in the local market, and World Vision encourages them to do that while focusing on assisting the neediest.
Apart from income and food, cows play a special role in South Sudanese marriages through traditional dowries. Depending on the status of a woman, the dowry could range from 30 to as many as 100 cows. The marriage does not become officially approved until the agreement is met and delivered. The most current price for a cow is between SSP 40,000-60,000 (HKD2,400-3,610).
Chan further adds, “The summer time is very challenging for pastoralists because of the lack of available grazing land. We also need to keep educating them to be responsible for their own animals. Many are threats to farms, destroying crops when they are left on their own. World Vision’s work has been making a lot of difference in the lives of farmers and pastoralists in our communities.”
“The project covers two counties and targets trans-boundary animal diseases prevention, detection and control, through vaccination and treatment of over 300,000 animals by 82 trained community animal health workers in a period of two years, to strengthen pastoral and agro-pastoral food security and nutrition,” says Wilson, a World Vision’s Programme Manager. “It is setting up early warning information systems, engaging the target community on diversification of agro-pastoral livelihoods and improving natural resource management practices in cross-border areas on a sustainable basis.”