Lusaka, Zambia

Zambia's rabies control strategy endorsed: a model for One Health success


An interview with Dr Linous Munsimbwe (BVM, MSc, PhD), Principal Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Veterinary Public Health Unit, Zambia. 

In a significant milestone in the global fight against rabies, Zambia’s Official Control Programme for dog-mediated rabies received endorsement during the 90th General Session of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). This endorsement was a testament to Zambia’s commitment to eliminating this deadly disease through a carefully planned and comprehensive health strategy.

To earn this prestigious recognition, countries must adhere to the WOAH International Standards, and their applications undergo rigorous evaluation to ensure the effectiveness of their measures. Zambia’s achievement not only underscores its dedication but also positions the country as a powerful advocate for garnering support to further implement its rabies control programme.

Rabies still kills both animals and humans, resulting in significant economic losses.

Zambia has an estimated population of 968,372 dogs and 411,221 cats (source: Zambia National Rabies Control Plan), and grapples with this pressing issue.  Dr Linous Munsimbwe, the Principal Veterinary Officer at the Ministry of Livestock, Zambia, emphasized the pivotal role played by the veterinary services in the implementation of the official rabies control strategy in the relentless battle against this disease.

As in other rabies-endemic countries, domestic dogs are the main transmitters of rabies in Zambia. Wildlife-mediated rabies, particularly through jackals and hyenas, is also reported in proximity to the wildlife reserve areas.

One of the primary objectives of Zambia’s rabies control programme is to eventually eliminate the disease in the country and self-declare its freedom from rabies, contributing to the global goal of “Zero by 30” to eliminate human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

Conducting mass vaccinations through innovation

Zambia has undertaken several successful initiatives as part of its rabies control strategy. These include mass dog vaccination campaigns that have been conducted in various districts, utilising innovative tools such as the Rabies Vaccination Tracker Tool, DHIS2 and WVS application on smartphones to ensure that the veterinary services keep track of vaccination data, to measure progress towards achieving the recommended coverage of 70% vaccinated dogs. While some districts have faced challenges due to a lack of training in using the vaccination tracker, overall efforts have made significant strides in vaccination coverage to protect dogs, livestock, and humans from exposure to the deadly virus.

Previously, the focus was primarily on prophylaxis in humans, which proved costly and resource intensive. However, with the adoption of a One Health approach, Zambia is now concentrating on controlling rabies in dogs, recognising that this is the key to ultimately curbing dog-mediated rabies cases in humans and other livestock.

Additionally, Zambia has engaged in pilot projects to control rabies in specific districts, successfully vaccinating thousands of dogs, education and awareness campaigns in schools, as well as public awareness initiatives, have been instrumental in disseminating crucial information about rabies.



From 2020 to 2021, we ran a pilot programme to reduce rabies by mass dog vaccinations in two major districts in Lusaka. Initially, we expected to vaccinate 10,000 dogs in Lusaka, in a year, but with the support of WOAH, other development partners FAO, USAID, and the private sector, we were able to vaccinate up to 50,000 canines at the end of the exercise

Dr Linous Munsimbwe, Principal Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Zambia, and Rabies Contact Point

The Delegate of Zambia, Dr Geoffrey Muuka (left) receiving the certificate of endorsement by WOAH of the official control programme against dog mediated rabies. Picture © Twitter (woah) 2023.

WOAH endorsement: getting global recognition.

The endorsement of Zambia’s rabies control strategy by WOAH has attracted sustained support from international partners. Through collaboration with organisations like the CDC USA and USAID, Zambia has secured 700,000 doses of rabies vaccine. This significant achievement serves as concrete evidence of the global community’s recognition of Zambia’s commitment to rabies control.

Dr Munsimbwe highlighted that one of the major successes in Zambia’s rabies control efforts has been the development and endorsement of its rabies control strategy, which was not in place before. This strategy has provided a clear roadmap for action and garnered support from various partners.

Apply for WOAH endorsement of your official control programme for dog-mediated rabies

Zambia's endorsement is a remarkable accomplishment in the realm of disease control, opening doors for Veterinary Services to gain increased access to regional and international markets for trade

Dr Linous Munsimbwe- Principal Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Livestock Zambia,

Embracing the One Health approach to combat rabies

Dr Munsimbwe reiterated that to bolster their efforts, Zambia has embarked on an Integrated Bite Case Management (IBCM) programme, involving collaboration between health centres, the police, and veterinary officials to respond swiftly to dog bite incidents. The introduction of rapid testing techniques has expedited the diagnosis process, enabling prompt action.

Zambia’s approach to rabies control exemplifies the One Health principle, emphasizing collaboration among different sectors to address zoonotic diseases comprehensively. While cross-border collaboration is in progress, Zambia’s commitment to rabies control is unwavering.

Maintaining control efforts through hurdles

Speaking on challenges, Dr Munsimbwe emphasized that despite the progress made, some of the challenges faced continue to impede some efforts due to the overwhelming number of dogs vis a vis the capacity for accurate data collection, especially in remote areas where rabies cases originate, and apathy towards vaccination practices due to perception by the communities.

Nonetheless, overcoming these logistical challenges and addressing community perceptions about vaccination are ongoing efforts that are a priority for the Zambia government. The primary focus is to invest in capacity building and staff training on technical skills that are essential to keep the programme effective and up to date.

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