The bustling Gataka area in Rongai sub-county in Kajiado county is rife with small slums, endowed with several ramshackle homes made of iron sheets beaten by the harsh sun and rain over the years, and that loom over the area like a watchful guardian. In these homes, loyal dogs lie in wait, protecting the local people and their homes. The owners love them dearly and treat them with the utmost care.
Some of the dogs in these homes receive the yearly shot against rabies, while others go without this life-saving vaccine because their owners cannot afford it. As a result, these dogs are at risk of contracting the disease if they come into contact with an infected animal. Their owners are also at risk of getting rabies if bitten by these dogs. They can be dangerous, and their bites can be deadly.
The Kajiado County Government had earlier declared a rabies outbreak in this area, calling out to the public to be on high alert. They advised everyone to avoid contact with roaming community dogs and to ensure their dogs are vaccinated against the disease. It is also during this period that the Kajiado county Government in partnership with Action for Protection of Animals Africa (APAA) embarked on the Pilot vaccination program against rabies in Kajiado county, and the Gataka residents are one of the beneficiaries of the program.
At the Gataka police station, one of the designated clinics, hundreds of residents came out to have their dogs vaccinated against rabies. The line for the clinic wrapped around the block, with people of all ages waiting patiently for their dogs to receive their shots. “We are elated to see residents bring their dogs in for vaccination shots. There is a notable increase in the number of residents bringing their dogs in for vaccination shots, as compared to other vaccination campaigns. The rabies vaccinations initiative is part of a wider effort to control the spread of rabies in the county and will not only help in minimizing rabies outbreaks and the spread of the disease but also in creating immunity in both animals and humans.” Dr. Kavosa Mudoga said gleefully. She attributes this to the hard work of the Kajiado County Government in mobilizing the residents and their outreach efforts.
John Githinji, accompanied by his 12 dogs of different breeds, was one of the residents who were eager to see his dogs vaccinated against rabies. "I'm very happy that the government is taking this initiative to vaccinate our dogs. I have been following the news about the outbreak of the disease in the area and want to make sure my dogs are protected. I am glad that the government is taking action to control it and have decided to take advantage of this program that provides free rabies vaccinations and deworming for dogs. The process was quick and easy, and I am happy to have it done." said Githinji. He added that he would take all necessary precautions to protect his dogs from the disease and is hopeful that by getting his dogs vaccinated, he can help keep other animals safe from the disease.
Survivor is not just a name that he gave to his dog. To Kiplimo, naming his dog Survivor has great meaning because it represents how strong and resilient he is. Kiplimo was only eight years old when he found his dog, Survivor. It was a mutt, part golden retriever, and part German shepherd. He had been hit by a car and left for dead on the side of the road. Despite being hit by the car, Survivor did not die but was left with a broken bone on his hind leg. Due to his love for pets, Kiplimo did not know how to process the pain and grief he was feeling and decided to talk to his mother who took Survivor to a vet and nursed him back to health and they became inseparable. When Kiplimo arrived at the vet with his dog, Survivor, he was relieved to find out that in addition to treatment, the vet had also vaccinated Survivor against rabies. The vet advised Kiplimo to have regular rabies vaccinations for Survivor, and Kiplimo was happy to oblige. He knows that it's important to do everything he can to keep his beloved dog healthy and safe, and that is why he brought his dog to receive the rabies vaccine shot.
By getting his dog vaccinated, Kiplimo was protecting his dog and other dogs in his community from rabies. Survivor is now doing better and is on the road to recovery.
Kiplimo’s mother is not alone in this, as there are many other women who feel compassion for their dogs. Joan, who is in her mid-twenties, feels the same way. Joan eased her car into a parking spot at the clinic, her dogs comfortably perched in the back seat. The dogs barked and whined as Joan tried to park her car. All around her, there was a feeling of peace and serenity. As she waited in the lobby, she narrated how much her dogs meant to her and why it’s important to have them vaccinated against rabies. “For the last 10 years, I have been a responsible dog owner, always making sure my furry friends are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. I brought my dogs to get vaccinated against rabies because I love them and wouldn't want to see them infected. I know that the vaccine is important for protecting my dogs from the disease, and want to make sure they are as healthy as possible. I am grateful to the Kajiado County Government and APAA for availing the vaccine.” Said Joan.
So far, the initiative has been successful in vaccinating thousands of dogs and reducing the number of rabies cases in Kajiado county. The county government has been working with APAA to implement the vaccination program, which began in November 2022. More than 1000 doses of the vaccine have been administered to dogs in the county, and there has been a 70% reduction in rabies cases. The program is ongoing till the end of November 2022, and the county government is hopeful that it will continue to be successful in reducing the number of rabies cases in the region.