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Securing Animal Welfare - Malawi's Resilience Response After Cyclone Freddy

The Unprecedented Cyclone Freddy

Cyclone Freddy, a record-breaking natural disaster, brought unprecedented destruction to Malawi's southern region. The cyclone's unrelenting fury wreaked havoc on communities, public infrastructure, and the lives of both domestic and wild animals. In the aftermath of the disaster, Malawi found itself vulnerable, staring at the upcoming El Nino and the drought conditions it promised to bring. In response to this imminent threat, it was imperative to focus on the recovery of livestock, which plays a pivotal role in sustaining livelihoods by providing food, milk, and income.

The cyclone had not only submerged large areas but had also left behind a breeding ground for waterborne diseases, infecting both domestic animals and wildlife. Moreover, the displacement of wildlife and dogs raised concerns about rabies and canine distemper outbreaks, emphasizing the need for immediate vaccination initiatives in post-flood affected areas.

From September 24th to October 6th, 2023, Action for Protection of Animals Africa (APAA), with the invaluable support of WAP, stood alongside the DVS in Malawi, responding to the aftermath of the cyclone to secure animal lives and community livelihoods. We conducted an in-person training on September 25th with VERU training starting on November 9th and will go up to December 9th, 2023. The effort aimed to rehabilitate livestock, empower communities with disaster management training, protect wildlife, and create awareness about the significance of animal welfare.

The Rationale for Response

The rationale behind the intervention was twofold. Firstly, to meet the immediate recovery needs brought on by Cyclone Freddy, and secondly, to bolster Malawi's disaster preparedness and resilience. This focus was particularly crucial as the impending El Nino threatened to exacerbate the situation, making a comprehensive response even more essential.

The intervention also sought to provide vital veterinary services to the affected animals, with a focus on ensuring their health and welfare. Simultaneously, it aimed to empower the University of Lilongwe Department of Veterinary Medicine with comprehensive disaster management training.

To safeguard both domestic and wild animals, we initiated an extensive vaccination campaign encompassing rabies and canine distemper vaccinations for dogs and wildlife. Additionally, we implemented measures to combat Newcastle disease in poultry, particularly in the regions surrounding national parks in Southern Malawi. We also conducted awareness campaigns and advocacy initiatives as part of the response to garner support for further relief efforts. The priority was placed on flood-affected regions near Lengwe National Park, where the livestock-wildlife interface is critical for maintaining ecological balance. Mikalango and Mbewe Extension Planning Areas (EPA) were identified as the focal points of intervention.

Achievements of the Intervention

The combined total of animals reached through these interventions amounted to an impressive 34,387, from 2,586 households showcasing the dedicated efforts to support both domestic and wild animals in the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy.

The breakdown of these efforts is as follows:

· Cattle: 1,918 were vaccinated, and 2,204 received treatment.

· Shoats (Sheep and Goats): 3,860 were dewormed, and 138 received treatment.

· Poultry: A total of 23,210 poultry were successfully vaccinated.

· Cats: Three cats were provided with the necessary care and treatment.

· Dogs: 290 dogs were vaccinated, and 178 received deworming treatment.

A Glimpse of Resilience

Throughout the intervention, we documented stories, captured videography, and took photographs in cyclone-affected communities, offering a distinct perspective on the trials faced by animals and their caregivers.

Notably, one of our veterinary responders, who tirelessly cared for numerous animals, demonstrated remarkable resilience by giving birth to a baby girl on the second last day of the mission, demonstrating resilience in the face of adversity. These narratives underscored the importance of securing animal welfare as a core value and the necessity of disaster preparedness, not just for humans but for the animals who share our world.

The intervention was not only a response to a disaster but also a statement of commitment to safeguarding the well-being of all living beings. By protecting animals and empowering communities, Malawi is forging a path toward resilience and sustainability, recognizing that securing animal welfare is integral to its cultural values.

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