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19-12-2008 - Vets needed desperately
Vets needed desperately
Pacific countries are desperately short of vets.

The urgent need to improve animal health services in the Pacific Islands region will be discussed during the Australasia regional meeting of the Commonwealth Veterinary Association (CVA), which opens in Apia, Samoa today.

Throughout the region, domestic animals are important for food, culture, transport, recreation, biodiversity and security.

But according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), there is a chronic shortage of vets and paravets, and the situation is getting worse.
“There are only around 140 vets in the region and more than half of Pacific Island countries have no vets at all,” IFAW Campaigner, Marguerite Young said.

“Outside of Australia and New Zealand there are no vet training facilities in the region, and the resulting poor animal health services is having an adverse effect on more than just the animals.”
Healthy domestic animals are essential for human health – most livestock diseases (over 70 per cent of emerging diseases) could affect humans.

The mistreatment of animals also has a negative impact on other sectors such as tourism.

“Temporary solutions, such as recruiting vets from overseas on short-term contracts, are bandaids which are quickly coming unstuck,” Ms Young said.

“Trained vets often leave the region for greener pastures, there are fewer scholarships available to study vet science and few expatriate vets want to volunteer for periods greater than a few months at a time.”

The solution to these problems lies in long term planning, which is being addressed by a taskforce set up during a meeting in Sydney last April, coordinated by IFAW in cooperation with the CVA and Australian Veterinary Association.

Chaired by Dr Robin Yarrow, taskforce members come from vet associations, regional governments, universities, volunteer agencies and animal welfare organizations from Australia, New Zealand the Pacific Island region.
The taskforce has been strongly endorsed by the Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services and consideration is being given for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to support its activities.

“This is a significant achievement and was made possible by strong support from the SPC, particularly the Animal Health and Production service. We very much look forward to the next step towards improving the lives of animals and the peoples of the Pacific Island region,” Ms Young said.

Marguerite Young is presenting at the conference on the vet capacity work on Wednesday morning. The taskforce meeting will occur on Thursday morning.

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