Description of your work
As Senior Veterinarian at Nowzad Animal Clinic in Kabul (Afghanistan), myself and my team of four vets have carried out various activities to help combat the rabies virus in our city and surrounds. We provide free rabies vaccinations on all owned animals brought to the clinic for treatment or readoption. We also vaccinate against rabies all sick or injured street animals rescued and hospitalised at our clinic, which are spayed and neutered as well as vaccinated against a range of other diseases too. These dogs and cats are then either returned to the area where they were found or remain at the clinic for longer-term recovery, sometimes then adopted by Afghan families.
Furthermore, Nowzad provides free rabies (and tetanus) vaccinations to all working animals as part of our Working Animal Programme in Kabul. We visit sites daily with large concentrations of working equines (e.g. brick kilns and kuchi camps) to treat the many donkeys, horses and mules working there and often suffering from heat stroke, dehydration, exhaustion or diseases such as tetanus and rabies. Nowzad vets also visit schools to teach students on the basics of animal welfare, how to treat all animals with compassion, and the risks and effect of rabies. We have produced a range of literature on this topic which we also distribute to the public during awareness campaigns and have put up rabies information banners at key sites in Kabul.
Impact in numbers
Since August 2022 – August 2023, we have provided free rabies vaccinations at the clinic to 257 dogs and 104 cats (and also neutered/spayed 120 dogs and 39 cats).
During my field work for the Working Animal Programme over this past year, I have also vaccinated 65 donkeys and 335 horses against rabies.
Myself and the Nowzad team have produced and distributed approximately 3000 information leaflets on rabies so far at 5 different sites around Kabul.
We have also established at least 20 large banners about the risk of rabies at densely populated areas around Kabul city, reaching hundreds of thousands of people.
Additionally, we have so far taught children at three schools in Kabul as well as 75 students who were invited to our clinic to learn about the risk of rabies and how to prevent its spread, combining it with lessons on animal welfare too.
A total of 72 veterinary students from Kabul University have also participated in training at our clinic focused on vaccinating small animals against rabies and performing neutering/spay surgery.
Nowzad has overcome many challenges in the past two years, not least surviving the Taliban takeover of the country in 2021 when we were forced to evacuate our most vulnerable staff, their immediate families and the Nowzad animals. After a very unsettling and difficult time, myself and other staff who were not able to leave Kabul are now working closely with the Animal Health Directorate (AHD) in Kabul on programmes designed to raise awareness about rabies and other zoonotic diseases present in our population and
how to humanely treat and control street animal populations. With their endorsement over the past year, we have been able to extend our awareness programmes to a very large audience. Staff at the AHD now join
us when we distribute rabies prevention leaflets in Kabul, and help us erect the large information banners. The Ministry of Education have also partnered with us to deliver education programmes to school children on rabies, and will be facilitating our visits to over 350 schools in Kabul over the coming year (reaching 105,000 school children in total). Myself and my staff have definitely seen a reduced number of rabies cases
in the street dog population and, by default, in the human population within Kabul too. There is also a noticeable positive change towards better animal welfare to the extent that people are now bringing their animals to us for vaccinations as part of the regular care for their animals, or will call us out to rescue injured dogs or if they see a rabid dog. We ensure their concern and compassion is always rewarded by giving them personalised certificates in return. Personally I have also noticed people in Kabul treating the street dogs and cats with a little more care than previously, and many appear to now know what to do if they see a rabid dog or are bitten by one. I also receive many calls daily from equine owners who request rabies
vaccinations for their horses and donkeys as part of their treatment or ongoing care. Thanks to our awareness-raising programmes and visitors to our clinic passing on the word, Nowzad is becoming more and more known for its work in trying to combat rabies in Kabul. We feel very proud of this progress. Several days ago for example, I received a call from a donkey owner in one of the more remote, mountainous areas a long way from the city. He had heard about Nowzad and wanted to inform me that a dog had attacked his
donkey and bitten him badly on his nose. He had at first thought it was a feral dog but neighbours told him that the dog had been attacking everything on the street and had looked particularly ill with red eyes. I packed up my vaccination kit and travelled there immediately to start the vaccination course on the donkey.
In total, we have had three rabid dogs rescued and brought to the clinic this year. Our protocol is always to first quarantine any animal coming in, and if they then show signs of rabies, we will put the animal to sleep humanely and send the necessary samples to the laboratory. If it is a confirmed rabies case, then we would survey the particular area that the animal came from for 10 days – and pick up any other animals that are sick with rabies.
Share a personal experience
About 10 years ago, when I was graduating from Kabul University as a vet, I met a father who’s young son had been bitten by a rabid dog. He hadn’t known what to do after the bite but then, after a few days, his son had started showing signs. I met this father when it was too late. At this point he was just waiting for his son to die. Very sadly, the boy passed away a couple of days later and it affected me so deeply. I decided then to focus on rabies in my veterinary career and to try and stop this happening to other families.
Animal Health Directorate, Kabul.
Ministry of Education, Kabul.
Vyom International, UAE (for many of our veterinary medicines and equipment).
Veterinary Faculty, Kabul University.
*Information adapted from nomination form submitted.