Two American veterinarians are heading off to Liberia this month to help the animals who have suffered because of a 14-year civil war in the West African country.
The two will be the only practicing veterinarians in the entire country.
Dr. Arlene Gardsbane and Dr. Beth Miller are part of Veterinarians Without Borders and their mission is to establish the Veterinarians to Liberia Project.
“War wiped everything out,” said Dr. Gardsbane.
Dr. Gardsbane DMV is an expert in small animal medicine and surgery while Dr. Miller DVM specializes in livestock production in developing countries. Together the focus of their visit will be to “assess the country’s needs and develop a plan to promote the health of the people, their pets, livestock and wildlife.” It’s a tall order to fill in a short three week trip.
They’ll be bringing their knowledge and some basic tools with them, including rabies vaccines and de-worming medicine. They also plan to impart as much education as they can about small animals and livestock through a series of seminars to public health care workers and villagers.
For the past four years Liberia has enjoyed peace after being in a long civil war. Their government has been trying to renew economic growth, but despite their efforts the country is still one of the poorest nations in the world. They have limited power, water, sewage and phones.
The Liberian government and Veterinarians Without Borders believe that healthy animals are the key to the security, health and income for the country.
Drs. Gardsbane and Miller have a busy schedule during this, the first international mission for Veterinarians Without Borders. Here is a list of their goals:
- Visit urban areas and assess the feral dog and cat populations for risk of diseases
- Visit rural areas to understand and assess the current livestock production
- Offer seminars on disease prevention and livestock health
- Assess the health of the pygmy hippo population which lives throughout the country
- Meet with government agencies and universities to coordinate future partnerships.
It’s a huge endeavor to organize in such a short period of time, but both veterinarians appear to be well qualified to make this project happen. Dr. Gardsbane plans to spend her time investigating the animal diseases that are being spread to humans and taking steps to stop it. She will begin the process of opening a small-animal clinic that can be used for spaying and neutering animals while also testing and treating them for diseases.
Dr. Miller has 10 years of experience on the staff of the Heifer Project that promotes self-sufficiency in developing countries by donating livestock to families. Her experience in teaching small villages how to care and manage cattle, sheep and goats will enable her to teach animal health workers about nutrition, parasite control and reproduction.
After their stay in Liberia, Vets Without Borders will put together a plan to benefit both the animals and the people. They also plan to organize a group of volunteers to work in the country to stop disease, vaccinate animals and oversee the welfare of the animals.
Veterinarians Without Borders was founded by Audra MacCorkle DVM in 2001 after she searched for an organization where she could do veterinary charity work. When she couldn’t find what she was looking for she established the group. Drs. Roger Ellis and Thomas Graham, both bovine practitioners came into the picture, both also desiring to start an international relief organization for animals.
Sharon Seltzer is a freelance writer on animal welfare issues and is one of the co-founders of an animal rescue organization called, Heaven Can Wait Sanctuary. She shares her home with her husband, three rescued dogs and three semi-feral rescued cats. (Story originally published on Care2 Network)