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photo copyright of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)

Ground breaking animal charity initiative helps rebuild Afghan livelihoods

A major new project to help working equines and their owners in Afghanistan is to transform the lives of thousands of people struggling to rebuild their lives in this war-torn country.

This week, two international charities, the Brooke Hospital for Animals and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), launched a jointly funded project to provide free veterinary care for working horses and donkeys in the southern Afghan city of Jalalabad, as well as run an equine education and training programme for owners.

In Jalalabad, thousands of people work with horses and donkeys and, in the vast majority of cases, entire families depend on these animals for their livelihood.

photo copyright of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)

Working at five of the busiest horse and donkey carriage stands, the project involves a team of specially trained local vets treating sick and injured animals, offering saddlery and farriery training and running education programmes.

Many of the animals treated so far have been substantially underweight, some in very poor condition. The reasons are badly overgrown teeth and heavy worm infestations and these problems are now the major priority for the veterinary work. Horses are also suffering from overgrown feet, which can cause severe lameness. The project - aided by the Afghan agency Committee for Rehabilitation Aid to Afghanistan (CRAA) - will also install fresh piped water supplies at carriage stands. This will be a lifesaver for people and
animals, especially in the harsh summer months, since the nearest water supply is currently over three miles away.

photo copyright of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)

photo copyright of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
The Brooke was previously able to help the Afghan people when they fled to Pakistan in search of refuge during the war. There, Brooke mobile clinics tended to their horses, which had survived two weeks of gruelling trekking to reach safety. At around this time, at the start of 2002, a WSPA team went to the aid of the long-suffering animals of Kabul Zoo and also restocked the city's veterinary clinics with desperately needed medicines. However, this is the first time both charities have been able to work directly with returning refugees inside Afghanistan to help rebuild their shattered lives.

Brooke's Veterinary Advisor, Joy Pritchard, explains the importance of the project: "In Jalalabad many equines suffer from lameness, body sores and heat stress. However, both people and equines face intense hardship, which we hope to address, through the provision of free veterinary care and piped water. "

Trevor Wheeler, WSPA's Director of Companion Animals, added: "The people of Jalalabad recognise the value of their equines. What they lack is anyone with the necessary expertise to provide health and welfare care for the animals. This is the legacy we hope to leave behind when the project is complete."

There are an estimated 30 million working equines worldwide. These animals are usually the only source of income for their poverty-stricken families and work under extreme conditions of heat, pain, exhaustion and illness. The Brooke Hospital for Animals was founded in Egypt in 1934 to improve the condition and well being of equine animals overseas by providing free veterinary treatment for the working horses, donkeys and mules in some of the most hard-pressed communities in the world and by advising and training their owners. It is the only organisation dedicated to providing veterinary treatment for working equines, alongside training owners, to
bring about lasting change. It operates in Egypt, Jordan, India and Pakistan.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is one of the world's biggest and fastest growing animal charities, with hundreds of thousands of supporters worldwide and an international network of 13 offices. The Brooke Hospital for Animals is one of more than 400 WSPA member societies in over 100 countries worldwide. WSPA, which enjoys a special consultative status with the United Nations, aims to promote the protection of animals, prevent cruelty and relieve animal suffering, through a combination of animal rescue and disaster relief operations, humane education programmes to encourage respect for animals, practical workshops to improve standards of animal care, and campaigning and lobbying for greater protection of animals.

This project is also being supported by the American Zoological Association.

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