Poor access to vets plagues animal health care

Published on 20 March 2014 in Health & Environment
Ali Abulohoom (author), Ali Abulohoom (photographer)

Ali Abulohoom


Ali Abulohoom


Sami Saleh, 19, recently spent a day in Sana’a searching in vain for a veterinarian to treat a dog he received from his uncle in Germany. He was not even able to find a pharmacy selling medicine for dogs.

A day later, Saleh’s neighbor gave him the address of a veterinarian on Al-Methaq Street.

“I was thinking of sending the dog back to my uncle because people in Yemen don’t receive appropriate health care, let alone pets,” said Saleh. But he changed his mind after he eventually found a qualified veterinarian.

“We have qualified veterinarians but the problem is that people are not aware of their locations or the importance of veterinary medicine,” added Saleh.

For many Yemenis, animals are a vital source of income and when they fall ill livelihoods are at stake.

Mohammed Noman, 35, bought a horse for YR1,35,000 ($6500) from a local sheikh. It was a significant investment and a means for Noman to earn a living. He takes photos of people on the horse in Tahrir Square in return for YR100 (about $.50) per photo.

“Yemenis love horses and love to take photos on them because they see horses as symbols of strength and pride,” said Noman.

When Noman’s horse gets sick he immediately takes it to the Animal Health Care Department, a section of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in Al-Methaq Street, where Saleh took his ill dog.  There Noman gets free treatment for the horse.

“I go to the administration whenever my horse is sick and pay only for the medicine that isn’t available in the department,” he said.

Nasser Al-Ansi, head of the department, said that most of those who visit the department with cats, dogs and other pets are foreigners. Rarely do Yemenis bring pets in for treatment.

Al-Ansi said that the department provides free services for those who have pets, adding that it is authorized to provide licenses for veterinarians and veterinary pharmacies.

Hadi Rajeh, a guard working for a foreign employee in Yemen, said that the foreigner asked him to take care of her four cats because she was always busy.  

Rajeh said that it was hard for him to take care of the cats in the beginning because he knew nothing about cat nutrition and the need for veterinarians.

“Special cat food is sold in some shops but it was difficult to find a vet to treat the cats whenever they got sick,” he said.

Rajeh eventually got the telephone number of a veterinarian through a neighbor of his.

“The veterinarian came to the house with a bag and some injections and tablets. He injected the four cats and I paid him YR4,000, but the cats did not recover,” said Rajeh.

Rajeh said that the veterinarian was actually a qat-seller who had deceived him.

“I saw the ‘veterinarian’ selling qat three days later and he confessed that he deceived me. He requested forgiveness in return for giving me the telephone number of a qualified veterinarian who then treated the cats,” said Rajeh.

Mohammed Ismail, a veterinarian running a private clinic in Al-Hasaba area, said that foreigners used to visit the clinic but their numbers decreased dramatically following the 2011 revolution, when security deteriorated and many foreigners left.

“Veterinary medicine isn’t very popular in Yemen and there are only a limited number of clinics and pharmacies, because most Yemenis aren’t interested in keeping pets,” he added.

Ismail said that people encounter significant difficulty when looking for places to treat sick or injured animals due to a general lack of awareness of veterinarians and animal healthcare issues. He added that some of those who visited him in the clinic said they were deceived by people claiming to be veterinarians.  

Ismail recalled an incident where an American citizen came to his clinic with a dog that had been injected with a poisonous substance by someone claiming to be a veterinarian.

Fadhel Ali, another veterinarian in Al-Methaq Street, said that most of his clients are Yemenis.

Yemenis pay more attention to livestock such as cows, goats, camels and donkeys because they rely on them to make money, according to Ali.

“People in charge of zoos also visit my clinic to get medicine for animals there,” he added.

Mohammed Al-Anesi, a 55-year-old resident of Dhamar, said that he does not take any of his three cows and 20 goats to a veterinarian because of the high costs of transportation.

“I wait for the annual visit by the Animal Health Care Department to inspect the livestock. I isolate the sick animals until they recover or die,” he added.

Al-Ansi said that the department carries out annual field visits nationwide to check on the health of livestock.