Rabies is present on all continents and endemic in most African and Asian countries. It is a fatal zoonotic neglected tropical disease caused by neurotropic RNA viruses of the genus Lyssavirus (family: Rhabdoviridae). It affects all warm-blooded animals (domestic and wild) and is transmitted by bite or scratch through the saliva of infected animals.

Despites being 100% vaccine preventable, rabies is one of the most important public health concerns worldwide as it has 100% case fatality rate once the victim begins to show signs and symptoms of the disease. Globally, it is estimated to cause up to 70,000 humans deaths annually. It has important economic impact due to the losses in livestock and the cost of the implementation of preventive and control measures in both animals and humans.

In Ghana, rabies remains endemic. Most rabies outbreaks occur in communities where preventive measures of dog-human transmission are poor. However, due to under-reporting, poor surveillance and a weak One-Health approach to surveillance, reports on rabies are often incomplete. 

According to the Ghana Health Services, it is estimated that 110 human rabies deaths occur annually. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that averagely more than two human rabies deaths occur every week.

In Upper West Region, a dog census has just been completed with the assistance of Breakthrough Action and Anglogold Ashanti Malaria Control Limited. And preliminary results show that there is an average of 8,000 dogs per District, therefore we anticipate approximately 88,000 dogs in the Region. Though, there is lack of  accurate statistics on rabies in the Upper West Region due to poor veterinary surveillance, hospital deaths indicate an endemic situation with frequent reported human deaths in the Region and multiple rabies related deaths continue to be reported in the Region.

Key facts

• Rabies has NO CURE

• Rabies is a dangerous disease with a horrifying and dehumanising clinical presentation and fatal once symptoms appear

• Over 70,000 people die of rabies worldwide of which more than 95% occur in Asia and Africa

• Over 99% of rabies cases in humans are due to dog bites; 40% of people are children under 15 years of age. 

• Education is key to rabies prevention

• Prompt wound washing with soap under running water is life saving

• Vaccinating against rabies saves lives

• Vaccinating dogs reduces human infection and is the most effective control measure.

• Rabies control helps to achieve SDG 1, 3 and 11 i.e “no poverty”, “Good Health and well being” and “Sustainable cities and communities”. 


Rabies in West Africa Ghana (RIWA-GH), is a 100% voluntary organization that seeks to help in the control and elimination of rabies, in West Africa. RIWA has the following objectives:

• To bring together interested individuals (professionals and non-professionals), organizations that are stakeholders in the control of Rabies disease and animal welfare

• To promote animal welfare, responsible pet ownership and rabies awareness in Ghana

• To create a network on rabies control in Ghana

• To lobby policy makers in the elimination of rabies in Ghana through the One Health Concept

• To create events and activities for the awareness of rabies and importance of animal welfare to the public and initiate public education and vaccination programs for all pets

• RIWA-GH is leading Ghana One Health Stakeholders in the fight against rabies.

The One Health Concept has now been accepted and in use in most countries in the Control of rabies and other zoonotic diseases. One Health is the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.             

RIWA-GH has been active in Ghana since 2014 and has conducted many programs including public education, awareness creation and free vaccination campaigns. Since 2014, RIWA-GH has been commemorating World Rabies Day (WRD) on September 28 and has moved its WRD celebration each year to different districts in selected regions with the aim of increasing public awareness on rabies.

It is the intention of RIWA-GH to commemorate the 2020 World Rabies Day in the Lawra District with a FREE rabies vaccination program.

However, with the high rabies endemicity within the region coupled with the high human death, interconnectivity of the people and high dog population records obtained from the dog census’ data in the region, RIWA-GH deemed it necessary to expand the FREE rabies vaccination activities to include all districts in the Upper West Region.



This is an ambitious program and will set a precedent in Ghana. A program of this nature does not only require precise planning, but more importantly, support from all sectors in the Region and beyond (multisectoral collaboration). The key components of the planned campaign include:

1. Procurement of Vaccines

2. Development, production & dissemination of Social & Behavior Change (SBC) materials 

3. Media sensitization and information dissemination

4. Durbar to Launch the World Rabies Day

5. The Vaccination campaign 

1. Procurement of vaccines

A total of 50,000 units of rabies vaccines at an estimated cost of GHS300,000 will be required to successfully execute this year’s vaccination campaign in the entire Upper West Region.

2. Development, production & dissemination of social & behaviour change materials 

Keeping the public adequately informed and well educated about rabies and its prevention will form a key part of this campaign. To accomplish this goal, flyers and posters will be designed, printed and distributed in schools and communities in the Region, including places of major public gathering i.e. markets, lorry stations & bus terminals, etc. The USAID Breakthrough ACTION Project will support SBC material development and production. Dissemination will be done in collaboration with the various local government institutions at the district level including Ghana Education Service, Ghana Health Service and Veterinary Services. 

3. Media sensitization and information dissemination

With support for local government partners and other stakeholders, media partners in the region will be sensitized to facilitate messaging before, during and after the vaccination campaign.  

In addition, live on-air interviews will be initiated at all major national and regional television stations and FM radio stations.

4. Durbar to Launch the World Rabies Day

A public durbar attended by senior government officials, members of the One Health Partnership and other stakeholders will be organised in Lawra on 28th September, 2020 to officially mark World Rabies Day and launch the vaccination campaign. 

A march through the town of Lawra by school children (400+) will precede the official launch with a float, brass band and students carrying rabies awareness banners, posters and flyers to be handed out to the public on the march route.

5. The Vaccination campaign 

The vaccination exercise will be organised in all the 11 districts of the Upper West Region in collaboration with Veterinary Services Division, the Ghana Health Service, volunteers and stakeholders.

A total of 220 vaccination sites will be selected in all the Districts with one (1) roaming team per District.

Dr. Richard Suu-Ire, RIWA Chairman & Wildlife Veterinary Specialist

Russell Coombs, Organizing Secretary