Bangladesh is a largely agrarian society, with many people depending on animal husbandry for their income. Virtually every inch of agricultural land in this country of more than 147 million citizens is used to grow crops, forcing farmers to share their living spaces with the animals they raise. These conditions and a lack of access to veterinary services leave families vulnerable to diseases that can be passed between animals and humans, which are called “zoonoses.” Some of the more common illnesses include bird flu, tuberculosis, tetanus and rabies; roughly 2,000 Bangladeshis die of these diseases every year. Population growth and cohabitating with animals increase the risk of zoonoses in the country.
Relief International, with funding from the European Union, is working with Bangladeshi citizens to implement One Health Asia, a program designed to prevent zoonotic diseases through training and education. RI’s disease prevention efforts address needs at all levels of the affected communities from households to government offices by:
- Forming clubs for schoolchildren and youths to raise awareness of zoonotic disease among the next generation of farmers, butchers and traders.
- Children raise awareness of the dangers of zoonoses and ways to avoid them by distributing brochures, hosting debate competitions, sport games, street plays and walks against disease.
- Generating wider support in government circles for the integration of zoonotic disease prevention into the public health agenda.
- Implementing disease monitoring and reporting systems that facilitate communication between government officials, local practitioners and communities.
- Training butchers and meat vendors to practice and promote hygienic animal slaughtering and dressing techniques, proper waste management and disposal.
- Training grassroots-level animal health workers and public health workers as community health workers on zoonoses and One Health to spread the word on the benefits of maintaining healthy livestock and healthy people.
- Establishing a zoonoses research center at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University where public health and animal health experts are conducting research on various aspects of zoonoses and their economic impacts on communities.
- Raising community awareness of zoonotic diseases through radio, news articles, newsletters, TV talk shows and workshops.
- Forming Zoonoses Control Committees (ZCCs) at the district, divisional and national level to facilitate multi-stakeholders collaboration, disease surveillance and reporting.
RI’s work in Bangladesh is part of a transnational program called One Health Asia Program (OHAP) that is funded by the European Union. The OHAP works to alleviate the impact of zoonoses on fragile rural populations by bringing greater awareness, reporting capabilities and preventative measures to avert zoonotic disease outbreaks in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.