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Transforming Animal Welfare in Africa - Insights from the 7th Africa Animal Welfare Conference

Nestled amidst its captivating highland terrain, Rwanda graciously hosted the cause of animal welfare in Kigali from September 25 to September 27, 2023. The 7th Africa Animal Welfare Conference - Action 2023, an event of great significance, was graciously hosted by the government of Rwanda in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the African Union InterAfrican Bureau of Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), and the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW).

Together, these esteemed hosts extended their warm greetings to conference attendees, embarking on a collective exploration of the conference theme: "Strategically navigating the intricate interplay between animal welfare, climate change, and sustainable development."

The Welfare of Animals in Disasters in Africa

The conference brought to light the dire need to address the welfare of animals during disasters in Africa. Dr. Judy Kimaru, the Director, Disaster Management and Wildlife Specialist at Action for Protection of Animals Africa (APAA), took the virtual stage to shed light on this critical issue. Dr. Kimaru emphasized the complex challenges associated with addressing animal welfare during disasters in Africa, where natural hazards, vulnerability, and economic exposure intersect. She drew attention to the concept of disaster-induced poverty, which results from a lack of information, capacity, and weak infrastructure in the region. These complex development challenges are further exacerbated by factors like urbanization, population growth, climate change, and fragile institutional foundations.

Moreover, Dr. Kimaru highlighted that addressing the welfare of animals in disasters not only saves lives but also protects livelihoods. She outlined the Africa Regional Strategy Objectives, which include increasing political commitment to disaster risk reduction (DRR), improving the identification and assessment of disaster risks, enhancing knowledge management for DRR, increasing public awareness of DRR, and integrating DRR into emergency response management. Dr. Kimaru's presentation shed light on the interconnectedness of animal welfare, disaster risk reduction, and the broader challenges Africa faces, making it clear that a comprehensive and integrated approach is essential for safeguarding animals and communities in the face of disasters.

Findings from the 2021-2022 Survey: Eliminating Rabies in Africa by 2030

The conference was also marked by another significant discussion, with Dr. Kavosa Mudoga, Companion Animal Welfare Director at Action for the Protection of Animals in Africa (APAA) presenting findings from the 2021-2022 survey aimed at determining the institutional preparedness of African countries to eliminate rabies by 2030.

Rabies remains a major public health concern in many African countries, with domestic dogs being the primary vector of the disease. The survey, conducted across the continent, provided a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the fight against rabies.

Dr. Mudoga highlighted the critical role of vaccinations, public awareness, and responsible pet ownership in controlling rabies. She also emphasized the need for African nations to adopt a coordinated approach, guided by the Global Strategic Plan to End Human Deaths from Dog-Mediated Rabies by 2030.

The Road Ahead: A Collective Commitment

As the conference drew to a close on its final day, the attendees were left with a sense of purpose and determination. The discussions and insights shared over the three days illuminated the intricate relationship between animal welfare, climate change, and sustainable development.

The 7th Africa Animal Welfare Conference - Action 2023 was a testament to the power of collaboration and shared commitment. The plight of animals, particularly in the face of disasters and disease, was acknowledged as a global concern that demands immediate attention.

The event in Kigali was not just a conference but a call to action, inspiring a collective determination to safeguard the welfare of animals and create a sustainable, harmonious future for all living beings. As the sun set over the lush hills of Rwanda, the promise of a brighter future for animals in Africa shone just as brightly, a beacon of hope kindled by the discussions and commitments made during those three transformative days.

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