Standing up to be Counted: One Health Students Club Educate and Engage High School Students in a Rabies Eradication Campaign in Ethiopia

Tuesday, 29 March 2016 - 5:26am
OHCEA Network Country: 
JUOHSC and their professors displaying the anti-rabies posters.

April 2013, in Maychew village in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, about 150 km from Mekelle city, a rabid dog bit a cow. The cow developed rabies and ended up biting 8 people in the village. Two days later in Aynalem, Mekelle another rabid dog bit two cows and three people. Within the same period of time some hyenas were found dead suspected of having died of rabies. Aside from hyenas, rabies is a threat to the endangered Ethiopian wolf, the world’s rarest canid, found in the Ethiopian Highlands. In 2003, several hundred wolves died in a rabies outbreak.

Rabies, a zoonotic and infectious disease that affects both humans and animals, is now becoming an epidemic in Ethiopia. It is estimated that approximately 15,000 people die of rabies annually. Ethiopia has one of the highest reported per capita rates of human rabies deaths in the world. It remains both a public health and economic problem through livestock losses in these impoverished rural communities. The persistence of this disease is centered on domestic dogs as the primary disease reservoir. In most communities in Ethiopia, the care of domestic dogs is the responsibility of teenage boys and girls. That is why the Jimma University One Health students club decided to begin their “Eradicate rabies in Ethiopia campaign “by focusing on educating high school students about rabies.

The Jimma One Health student club (JUOHSC) was officially established at Jimma University in October 2015. They had a whopping 140 students registered as club members from different disciplines including human medicine, veterinary medicine, environmental sciences, agriculture and public health.  Formation of One health student clubs across the One health Central and East African (OHCEA) University networks is one of the innovative ways to engage multiple disciplines to solve public health threats at the human animal environmental interface and to equip students with the right knowledge, mindset, skills and tools that can enable them to work collaboratively with communities to prevent detect and respond to infectious disease threats.

This is the key objective of the USAID-Emerging Pandemics threat One Health Workforce project which is promoting and funding the One Health student Clubs,- to  build the capacity of the  current and future public health workforce in hot spot nations to detect, prevent and respond to infectious diseases and  emerging pandemics.

JUOHSC targeted Seto High School in Jimma in the month of January 2016 for their first anti- rabies campaign effort. They had an audience of 500 students most of them 9th and 10th graders. The one health club students prepared brochures and posters in the local language and English containing information on etiology, epidemiology, transmission and control of rabies.

 

These posters and brochures were distributed as the One Health Club members shared in groups and one on one with their high school counterparts. One of the JUOHSC members, Atsede Milashu recited a poem on rabies and its dangers. They also communicated information on the One Health concept and the significance of using this approach to prevent and respond to any emerging pandemic.  At the end of the day students at the high school plus other community members had become aware of rabies and the need to eradicate it.

This is just the first step for the One Health student club- they plan to take this campaign nationwide to other counties and communities in Ethiopia, to include other rabies eradication techniques such as vaccination of animals, control of stray dogs and spaying and to add other infectious diseases like Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Anthrax, Ebola and Yellow Fever to their campaigns. They also plan to assist the high schools to start their own One Health students clubs.  Through this process the One Health student club members are building their skills and competencies in emergency preparedness and response and will be at the forefront in the fight when the next pandemic comes. So count them in!