This heartbreaking video illustrates the agonizing daily workload of 70,000 donkeys hauling water through a sultry Sahara city.
Nouakchott is the capital of Mauritania in northwest Africa, but has no tap water system for the 1.3 million inhabitants.
Donkeys are used to carry water from house to house and regularly work 10-12 hours a day in temperatures above 40 degrees.
But despite their vital role, these workhorses often lack access to the water and food they need, as well as other basic needs such as veterinary care.
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The Covid-19 crisis is wreaking havoc on farm animals in the world’s poorest communities – and food and water have become even more important over the past year.
Local bans and work restrictions have left many owners with no income and struggles to feed their families and their animals.
In response to this crisis, the international animal welfare organization SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) carried out emergency feeding programs around the world to save the lives of starving animals.
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In Mauritania, the charity provided food, water and life-saving veterinary treatments to more than 97,000 working donkeys and horses across the country last year.
This project was a lifeline for animals that have already been badly hit by a long period of drought, as food and water are extremely difficult to get.
SPANA’s sixth annual International Working Animals Day, which takes place on June 15, 2021, raises awareness of the essential role of working animals in developing countries around the world – and the difficult lives they have to endure.
Dr. Ben Sturgeon, Director of Veterinary Services at SPANA, said: “It is hard to imagine how stressful it would be to carry bone-breaking loads every day in terrible conditions and extreme heat.
“Working animals like the donkeys and horses of Mauritania play an important role – they carry food and water that are fundamental to the survival of communities.
“But all too often these animals don’t have the water, food and veterinary care they need themselves.
“On International Working Animals Day, we’re shedding light on this forgotten workforce. They work so hard and desperately need our help.”
Countless poor families in Mauritania depend on farm animals to generate a small income and to bring food to the table.
In Nouakchott alone, another 30,000 donkeys transport other goods such as charcoal, building materials and even garbage.
In the past there was no help for these animals – wounds and injuries were left untreated, donkeys received no vaccinations or necessary medication, and harmful practices were common.
However, since 2001 SPANA has been offering Mauritania’s workhorses free veterinary treatment.
The charity operates veterinary centers and mobile clinics in Nouakchott and other locations across Mauritania to treat sick and injured animals.
SPANA trains pet owners in the proper care of their animals (including ensuring adequate nutrition and nutrition), and that training was delivered to more than 19,000 owners in 2020.
The charity also runs an education program in Mauritania that helps school children – the next generation of animal owners – develop a sense of respect and compassion for animals, thereby improving animal welfare in the long term.
Last year, more than 4,700 children in Mauritania benefited from animal welfare classes.
SPANA’s Ben Sturgeon added, “Millions of families in the world’s poorest communities depend entirely on farm animals for water and food availability by plowing and bringing products to market. But these animals are often overlooked and their needs neglected.
“On International Working Animals Day, SPANA calls on people to support our work for these loyal animals who give so much for their communities.
“By building water troughs, distributing food to malnourished animals and providing free veterinary care for hundreds of thousands of animals around the world, the SPANA teams make a big difference in the lives of farm animals in need of help every year.”
You can find out how you can support these hardworking animals during a visit www.spana.org/workinganimals.