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   Vets Without Borders
In the Winter 2020 BC Holstein News, Dr. Roberta Templeton from Port Alberni gave us a glimpse into the work of Veterinarians Without Borders – specifically into her project with small-holding dairy farmers in Uganda. With her vet husband Jared accompanying her, they were back-packing around East Africa, following the completion of her VWB project. Then came Covid...
Roberta and Jared are happy to be back on Vancouver Island, although it’s different working at the vet clinic with a closed-door policy for now. Covid-19 has not dimmed Roberta’s drive to return to International Development work – the need is greater than ever, especially in light of this new situation!
 1 - Roberta checks a suspected case of brucellosis – long eradicated from Canada’s dairy herds.
2 - Roberta treats a heifer for anaplasmosis (a bacterial disease spread by ticks) with Kwesiga and assistants.
3 - An African safari was one of the best moments before Covid cut their adventure short.
4 - The cheetah - the fastest cat on the African plains! Here kitty, kitty, kitty...
Covid Shines a Spotlight on
the Need for Resources in
Developing Nations
By Roberta Templeton, DVM, Port Alberni
Everyone has been impacted by Covid-19 in some manner. My thoughts go out to all of you reading this that have no doubt been dealing with your own challenges. For Jared and I, we had finished our Vets Without Borders placement in February and were making our way around the region of East Africa to see the sights. We had
from animals). Are we devoting a proportionate amount of resources and research into this area as a result? Our global state of unreadiness for this pandemic makes me think not. It made me realize that now is the time to increase our efforts as veterinarians and animal health providers.
Understanding the ecology of diseases, how human-animal interaction affects them, and what can be done to mitigate the spread, should now be brought into the spotlight it deserves.
There is still so much work to be done in Uganda, and I am working daily to help the people from afar. Thanks to modern technology like WhatsApp, I can stay in touch with the veterinarians and farmers I met while on my placement. They ask my advice and I do my best to track down science-based answers. While I was in country, my biggest efforts were directed towards talking about the common diseases the cows were suffering from and making people aware of which ones were contagious to them. I will never forget the collective looks of shock when I informed a room full of producers that the cows infected with Brucellosis could pass this through their milk, and that their families were at risk if they drank it. We are so very lucky in Canada to have completely eradicated this disease in 1985. One of the positive things that came out of this meeting was that the farmers started asking questions about what could be done about it, resulting in us heading out to a farm the next
week to test the entire herd.
Despite what may seem like a series of insurmountable obstacles, I saw a lot of optimism in Uganda. I saw generosity on a level that humbled me. It was always a mixture of uplifting and heart breaking. There are things that can be done to uplift a developing nation like this, but it will take resources and devoted individuals. As it stands, I saw no shortage of the latter. Having an understanding of the ecology of diseases will keep us safe here at home, and that fact will be no different globally.
2 been on safari, climbed Kilimanjaro and were just settling into an easy backpacker rhythm when the momentum of the global pandemic finally reached critical mass. We were asked by our government to return home immediately, as this virus was serious, widespread and potentially devastating on a scale that we had not experienced in
our lifetimes.
Following our two-
week quarantine
back home, we
returned to a very
different life than we
had left in January.
The fallout from
Covid-19 stalled my
intent to write this follow-up article. But during this time, I have come to realize if there was ever a time to start extolling the importance of One Health, it is now, when we find ourselves in a global pandemic that was kick-started with the increased mingling of human and animal viruses and immune systems. One Health is “the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally, to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment,” as defined by the One Health Initiative Task Force. By enriching one area, we see positive benefits in a chain reaction. The concept and implementation of One Health is an idea borne out of years of international scientific collaboration and is at the heart of the mission of Vets Without Borders.
I am not saying the international community could have prevented this global pandemic, but I can’t help but wonder if things would have turned out differently if there were more resources in place for people in developing nations to understand the consequences of increased human interactions with wildlife.
The same goes for the dairy farmers of Uganda. What positive health effects could we spur if there were more resources put into the health of their animals? The World Health Organization estimates that over 60% of all human diseases are zoonotic in origin (i.e. they originally came
One Health is “the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally, to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.”

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