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Dinsho, Ethiopia, September 2011
Passion to Live
I lost a few feathers but I could have lost my life! The dog that started to follow me during a rest stop on the way to Dinsho was out of control, foaming at the mouth, a victim of rabies, a disease that attacks the nervous system of the infected person or animal. Without immediate treatment death is inevitable.
Rabies? Many people think it is a disease of the past. Unfortunately, 55 000 people, many of them children, still die every year due to rabies.
Ethiopia is not spared, to the contrary, and has a high mortality rate due to this disease. One of the most effective methods to counter this atrocious disease is to vaccinate dogs. Around the world numerous vaccination campaigns are organized in order to contain this disease. Today, September 28, is Word Rabies Day.
Do you know the sad difference between Joseph Meister and Ayana Sitota? Joseph was 9 years old when he was bit by a dog on the way to school in Alsace, France. He was the first person saved from rabies thanks to Louis Pasteur's new vaccine... in 1885. Ayana, also 9 years old, did not survive rabies after being attacked close to Goba, Ethiopia, not far from here... in 2011. A vaccine has existed for 126 years yet children continue to die of rabies.
In animals, an entire species almost disappeared in 1998, and then again in 2003 and in 2009. Today there are only around 500 Ethiopian Wolves struggling to survive. More than 50% were affected by rabies spread by stray dogs. It took the quick reaction and patience of Claudio Sillero and the team on the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project to vaccinate the still healthy individuals. Today the wolf population is in good health but rabies always a risk.
Every September 28 the children in Dinsho take to the streets to demand the vaccination of dogs and the protection of the Ethiopian Wolf, a natural treasure of Ethiopia. “Fight rabies together! Dhukkuba saree ni balaaleffanna!” Outside of saving a species, the children are also concerned about their own safety, hoping that one day they will have the same opportunity as young Joseph Meister.