UK charities have appealed for help to provide urgent care for horses and donkeys affected by a volcanic eruption in Guatemala.

Ash from Fuego, Santa Lucia, which has been erupting since 3 June, has travelled as far as 40km, coating crops that provide a vital source of food and income for local people and their animals.

World Horse Welfare says the area around the volcano is home to hundreds of working horses which are relied on to transport goods and people.

“As a result of the eruption, many horses now have no choice but to eat contaminated food and many are in urgent need of veterinary care to treat eye infections and respiratory problems caused by the dust and ash,” a spokesman for the charity said.

World Horse Welfare has been working in Guatemala since 2012 with local equine welfare organisation SABE and has seen first-hand the impact the eruption has had on the surrounding communities.

“Our team from SABE has been on the ground since Monday providing emergency veterinary treatment and supporting owners wherever possible but there is much more still to be done,” the spokesman said.

“We are currently unable to access the areas worst affected by the eruption (locally known as ground zero) but as soon as it is safe to enter, the team will be moving in to provide veterinary assistance and administer vaccinations which will protect horses from the increased risk of tetanus and influenza.

“Even before the eruption, owners struggled to give their horses adequate forage and feed to keep them healthy and now that acres of agricultural land have been destroyed, this is a bigger challenge than ever before.”

The charity is asking for donations to fund vital supplies of hay, grass and mineral supplements . The money will also be used to support owners in dealing with illnesses such as colic, which World Horse Welfare fears will become more prevalent as food becomes scarce.

“Our team will be working closely with horse owners to provide training and supplies to assist in basic care such as cleaning their horses’ eyes, keeping their skin clean of dust and ash to prevent sores and treating wounds to ensure they do not become infected,” the spokesman added.

Fellow equine charity Brooke has also been working in Guatemala since 2006, alongside local group ESAP. A spokesman described the natural disaster as the “worst the area has ever seen” and has launched an appeal to raise emergency funds.

The charity — which specialises in helping working equines throughout the world — said its teams had been operating “tirelessly”on the ground, visiting the emergency shelters which have been established for both human and animal evacuees.

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“This week the people and animals of Guatemala have suffered horrendously due to the continued eruptions of the Fuego volcano. Many have sadly passed away or are missing,” a spokesman said.

“During this difficult time Brooke will liaise with others on the ground in Guatemala to co-ordinate efforts effectively including World Horse Welfare.

“Any donations received will enable the team to activate an emergency relief programme for the horses, donkeys and mules affected by providing food and water, emergency treatment and support to the equine owners and their families.”Donations can be made at the World Horse Welfare website or Brooke’s Facebook page.

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