In September and October of 2023, our team in Mumbai supported in a ten-day intensive canine rabies vaccination campaign across six Mumbai wards. This campaign was organised by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Veterinary Health Department (BMC VHD) and supported by other animal welfare organisations from Mumbai.
Rabies kills approximately 59,000 people globally every year, with children accounting for a disproportionately high percentage of global rabies deaths. With a third of all estimated human rabies cases occurring in India, the country is the world's hotspot for the disease. Infected dog bites are the main cause of rabies in people and studies have proven that mass canine vaccination programmes are the most effective way to control the disease. By vaccinating 70% of a canine population, rabies can be stopped in its tracks, achieving herd immunity, and preventing the unnecessary deaths of people and animals.
During 2022, rabies was declared a notifiable disease by Maharashtra State Health Department, giving a major boost to the rabies control activities across the state. We signed a memorandum of understanding with the BMC, creating a partnership to offer free vaccinations, share expertise and track rabies cases, to work towards making Mumbai a rabies-free city. The drive marks the beginning of an annual mass dog vaccination drive in Mumbai, where five NGOs will be assigned specific wards to vaccinate dogs. The goal is to vaccinate 100,000 dogs by the end of March 2024. This is all part of a broader national plan in India to eliminate human rabies deaths by 2030.
We provided technical support and strategic planning of the teams through the WVS Data Collection App, and two of our expert vaccination teams from Goa joined the drive. There were ten hand-catching and five net-catching teams with data collectors, vaccinators, handlers, and local dog feeders. Before the drive, dog feeders were identified, their exact locations mapped on the App, and their contact information provided to the teams. By adhering to the designated locations and allocated feeders, the teams were able to cover the areas faster and more efficiently.
The teams operated from two hubs during the drive: Goregaon (West) and Kanjurmarg (East). These hubs were strategically located in relation to the vaccination wards to minimise the travel time to the vaccination locations. Experience from past vaccination campaigns showed that assigning a large territory to a team in a single day may result in a lower coverage, therefore, each ward was divided into smaller micro-wards.
Between 28th September (World Rabies Day) and 10th October, vaccinations were carried out by a total of 15 teams. Kenan headed the Mission Rabies Goa team, which included four other staff members, Deepak, Bipin, Sunny, and Ajay, who helped the vaccination teams by hand-catching dogs. Using the WVS App, the teams, along with feeders and volunteers, navigated through assigned areas, vaccinating, and marking the animals.
Kenan and our surveillance officer for Mumbai, Viral Shah, carried out a post-vaccination survey to assess the vaccination coverage. In just ten-days, the teams vaccinated 14,191 animals, 9,493 dogs and 4,698 cats. In addition to the six designated wards, the teams also covered several rabies hotspots bordering these areas to enhance the efficiency of the drive and strengthen herd immunity. This campaign will provide valuable data for the Mumbai vaccination drive in 2024, building upon the successes of this initiative and addressing key areas for improvement.
If you are interested in volunteering with us at this project, you can join us in Mumbai in February and March of 2024 for a one-week mass vaccination campaign. You'll be part of something amazing - helping to protect people and animals in Mumbai from this deadly disease. Sign up here to find out more.