British vets fly to the Gambia as deadly West Nile disease strikes

  • Vets from Liverpool University and the Equine Veterinary Hospital in Arundel, Sussex fly out next week to teach poor farmers in the west African nation proper care of their horses.

    There are only seven vets in the whole of Gambia, a country of only 1.5m people and which was without horses until thirty years ago.

    Horses were brought in from neighbouring Senegal as the foreshortening of the rainy season due to climate change meant farmers needed to harvest faster.

    Heather Armstrong, chief executive of the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, who was born in Gambia, has organised the aid.

    She said: “All the vets are volunteering. Rob Christley and Gina Pinchbeck of Liverpool University have previously paid for their own flights.

    “There’s no tradition of horsemanship in Gambia. The Gambians are lovely people but they know nothing about horses. We’re trying to reduce rural poverty by improving the welfare of working horses and donkeys.”

    Ms Armstrong had Defra do blood tests on samples she had previously brought back from Gambia.

    These confirmed that West Nile disease, which can also affect humans, has struck the Gambia.

    The trust has fourteen staff based upcountry in Gambia in an area without electricity and running water.

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