In Ethiopia the Donkey Sanctuary started its health and welfare activities in 1994. This was the time when the International Donkey Protection Trust and Addis Ababa University concluded an agreement and signed a memorandum of understanding. Since that time and up to 2003, activities were centred in the districts of Bereh, Boset, Ada and Akaki and Addis Ababa Grain Market located at a radius of 100-150 kms from Debre Zeit, the centre with a stationery clinic. The facilities of the latter include an open-air clinic, surgical theatre, laboratory, store for drugs, boxes for mules and donkeys, offices and a training room. As of 2004, three districts namely: Dugda Bora, Lume and Sebata have been added as sites of operation. Resistance at the very beginning by donkey owners to bring their animals for treatment was a problem but over the years the service has obtained wide acceptance, the trend exhibiting exponential growth: Ada (R2=0.87), Akaki (R2=0.88), Bereh (R2=0.70), Boset (R2=0.70), and for mules (R2=0.84). The clinic has so far provided treatments to 289,999 donkeys and 14,665 mules, and 217,609 owners have benefited. In 2003 two satellite projects have been set up in the northern part of Ethiopia: Amhara and Tigray and have so far treated more than 72,000 donkeys and mules and more than 29,000 owners have benefited. The centre at Debre Zeit was also designed to cater for local and international training, to date it has provided training to 217 veterinary professionals (28 foreign vets, 41 local vets, 17 foreign and 101 local animal health assistants, 30 local animal health technicians) in donkey medicine, surgery, farriery and general welfare. Since 2002, 297 clinical year students enrolled for the DVM degree in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Addis Ababa University have been trained in donkey medicine and surgery. Three to four clinical year students accompany mobile teams in field operations on a weekly rotation basis. Recently, the project has embarked on an education and extension programme in conjunction with its treatment activities and so far 51,513 owners have benefited. In the recently launched school education programme 1014 students in 7 primary schools are attending sessions in the basics of animal welfare. Baseline data development for the understanding of the health and welfare problems of donkeys in Ethiopia is being pursued by the project staff and through the supervision of DVM thesis involving final year students.
Retrospective analysis of the clinic database between 2003-2005 indicated that tetanus (27 cases), colic (134), rabies (7), strangles (17), hyena bite (429), dystocia (39), hernia (27) and car accidents are the major causes of direct mortality in donkeys of Central Ethiopia. The case fatality rates of donkeys affected by these diseases were: tetanus 22%, colic 27%, dystocia 15%, strangles 12%, hernia 11%, hyena bite 7% and rabies 100%, in clinical intervention sites of the Donkey Sanctuary. In the non-intervention areas the mortality rates are expected to be higher as there would be no treatment intervention. In this paper the two major causes of mortality: tetanus and colic are discussed. In the project in Ethiopia, treatments of advanced cases of tetanus following standard procedures have been successful. Of 27 cases treated 21 have been cured. The treatment has, however, been expensive, costing the project an average of 1400 Eth Birr per donkey (mature donkey costs 300-400 Eth Birr) and requiring a long period of hospitalisation. In an ideal situation, prophylactic immunisation is the best option. Economic realities however prohibit such an option from being feasible in countries like Ethiopia. An extension system and strategy that focus on the prevention of wounds using proper harnesses/saddles and institution of a sound hoof care programme is the option in mind. Colic characteristics are: gastric impaction 8%, obstruction of small intestines 7%, colonic impactions 19%, flatulent colic 23%, enterolithiasis/foreign bodies 24%, throboembolism due to strongylosis and undiagnosed cases 19%. Free access to mouldy or coarse feed, ingestion of polythene bags, fertiliser sacks and used fabrics of nylon clothes were the major causes. Common sites of lodgement for enteroliths were the proximal portion of the transverse colon, transverse and small colons. Enterolith/foreign body was often diagnosed in pregnant donkeys with colic. Few cases were relieved by surgery. A considerable number of the enteroliths were removed by manual traction. Veterinary intervention alone will do little to alleviate such problems. The use of school children to collect polyethylene bags and fertiliser sacks, improve farmers' awareness of the risk being posed by these materials and that of braided nylon ropes. Encouraging farmers to prevent donkeys from grazing at waste disposal sites is also another preventive measure that can be practised against colic. Extension and education programmes for owners should pay particular attention to these issues.