A world first for rabies elimination: Gabon strides towards Zero by 30.

Journalists film as the Minister of Agriculture opens the SARE workshop in Gabon for rabies elimination planning with GARC and FAO

A world first has just taken place in Gabon. Stakeholders from different ministries, organizations, and sectors came together from 3 – 16 November 2020 to undertake the first ever online SARE workshop. This important workshop was opened by the Minister in charge of Livestock, Mr. Biendi Maganga-Moussavou, in his capacity as head of the Gabonese government's veterinary policy.

With the social distancing and travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-country SARE workshops, that are typically held face-to-face, were suspended. This has unfortunately impacted government plans to assess their rabies situation and develop workplans to help them reach the Zero by 30 goal. GARC, partnering with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), decided to be pro-active and changed this challenge into an opportunity by taking the scheduled in-country SARE workshops online.

“The government of Gabon has demonstrated that significant progress towards rabies elimination is possible through their development of and commitment to a stepwise One Health-based national strategy” – Prof. Louis Nel, Executive Director, GARC.  

Through the innovative use of tools like Google Forms, Trello and Zoom, the entire SARE assessment and workplan was built into a user-friendly online platform. Presentations were turned into webinars, with question and answer sessions live streamed directly from Gabon to GARC and FAO facilitators. In addition, the Excel-based SARE tool was converted into a series of Google Form questionnaires. All of this was placed onto a Trello page, making it possible to bring together all the useful tools and documents for the SARE workshop on a single platform.   

Round table group discussions were held during the SARE workshop in Gabon for rabies elimination planning, with GARC and FAO.

During the first of eight online SARE workshops planned for Central Africa, more than 60 key rabies stakeholders from various ministries, organizations and groups in Gabon gathered in a massive meeting room (to accommodate the participants while enforcing social distancing), to work together in small groups on the SARE. An expert from the sub-regional FAO office for Central Africa was present to oversee and guide the workshop, while GARC and FAO headquarters facilitators led the workshop through live streaming.

Previously, Gabon had undertaken a SARE assessment at a regional PARACON meeting in 2016 where they scored 0/5 and two years later in 2018, where they scored 0.5/5. Through dedication, hard work and government commitment, as well as a truly One Health evaluation and approach, Gabon jumped an entire SARE stage to 1.5/5 in 2020.

“Through dedication, hard work and government commitment, Gabon jumped from 0.5 to 1.5 in less than 2 years.”

Not only has Gabon recently made significant strides towards rabies elimination, but stakeholders and officials plan to maintain the momentum developed during the workshop. A multi-sectoral taskforce has already been set up to accomplish the next activities highlighted in the workplan. By undertaking the SARE, stakeholders from Gabon have not only aligned themselves with the Global Strategic Plan: Zero by 30 but have also developed a clear strategy for the next steps in rabies elimination. With the progress that has already been demonstrated, the current enthusiasm and drive, and continued support from national stakeholders, Gabon can realistically achieve zero dog-mediated human rabies deaths by 2030.  

If your national government is interested in hosting an in-country SARE workshop, please contact us.

These workshops are reliant on the generous support of our partners and donors. Please consider donating to GARC because your support will help governments in their national rabies elimination efforts,