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[MANILA] Communities in rural areas of Africa and Asia where the risk of rabies remains high are now the main targets of a global initiative aiming to eliminate the disease caused by bites from infected dogs.
The Paris-based Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, is pursuing a goal of eliminating dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

“There is no cure for rabies once symptoms develop, and bite victims invariably die a slow, painful death unless post-bite treatment is promptly administered.”

Organisation for Animal Health

At the center of this initiative is a rabies vaccine bank that marshals donated funds for the production or procurement of high-quality vaccines and their distribution to countries where the incidence of rabies remains high. Donors include Australia, France, Germany and the European Union.

Although rabies is preventable by vaccination and responsible animal ownership, half of the world’s population remains at risk of the deadly disease. Every year, around 59,000 deaths worldwide are caused by rabies. Children in rural populations are particularly vulnerable, according to the OIE.
rabies fact

“There is no cure for rabies once symptoms develop, and bite victims invariably die a slow, painful death unless post-bite treatment is promptly administered,” adds the OIE.e

The OIE-led rabies vaccine bank has been at the forefront of rabies control since its establishment in 2012, when deaths from rabies totalled 70,000 a year. More than 15 million doses of rabies vaccines have been delivered to 23 countries, OIE communication head Catherine Bertrand-Ferrandis tells SciDev.Net.
This year, the OIE donated 50,000 doses of rabies vaccines to Namibia, 100,000 doses to Haiti and 5,000 doses to Mali. Countries and international organisations such as the WHO have also been able to purchase vaccines from the rabies vaccine bank for delivery to Chad (10,000 doses), the Philippines (4,800,000 doses) and Tanzania (220,000 doses).
The rabies vaccine bank, says OIE finance director Alain Dehove, provides member countries “with high-quality vaccines in a timely manner, at a pre-established low, fixed price to support their national rabies elimination strategies”.
Dehove says a country’s vaccine procurement can be “scaled up” to meet new needs. “In the Philippines, for example, the OIE and the WHO were able to adapt to country needs by providing an increasing number of vaccines over a three-year period, reaching more than 10 million doses.” The OIE vaccine bank also serves as a catalyst in designing and implementing national dog vaccination campaigns.
“Because vaccines are delivered safely and rapidly, the beneficiary country can focus on other essential aspects of its national strategy such as managing stray dog populations, and increasing access to treatment for humans,” according to OIE director-general Monique Eloit.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk