Rabies, a 100% vaccine preventable yet neglected disease, claims tens of thousands of human lives every year, mostly among underprivileged and marginalized populations in Asia and Africa. In 2015, a global study estimated that canine rabies caused over 3.7 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and 8.6 billion USD economic losses annually. Over 95% of human rabies cases are due to dog bites. It has been proven in several countries and regions that the elimination of rabies as a public health problem is feasible through regional cooperation.
To tackle rabies, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) joined effort to launch the Global Strategic Plan, “Zero by 30”, in June 2018, aiming to end human deaths from dog mediated rabies by 2030 in the global aspect. Regionally, FAO, OIE and WHO (the regional tripartite) have come together to support rabies control activities in the region by organising regional/ sub-regional rabies workshops involving both the human and animal health sectors. Previous collaboration between the regional tripartite and the SAARC Secretariat had conducted workshop in 2015 to develop a SAARC Rabies Elimination Project for funding support from the SAARC Development Fund.
Following through the path towards the goal, the regional tripartite, SAARC Secretariat, GARC, World Animal Protection (WAP) and other partners have jointly organised this workshop, in June 2019, with the theme “Enhancing Progress towards Rabies Elimination Goal of Zero by 30 in the SAARC region” to provide a forum in reviewing country progress, sharing successful stories and good practice, discussing issues of mutual concern and identifying concrete, national and regional roadmaps or plans to achieve the global elimination goal.
The SAARC rabies workshop was preceded by a series of in-country Step-wise Approach towards Rabies Elimination (SARE) assessment workshops conducted in five countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka) wherein countries assessed their progress and also developed country work plans using the Practical Work Plan towards Achieving Rabies Elimination (PWARE) tool facilitated and financed by OIE, FAO and GARC.