By Vanessa Papas people Has Heart: It all started with a humble community member named Joe Mancu who, despite living small, dreamt big. Joe had a vision of helping each and every animal living in his hometown of Khayelitsha have the very best possible life. In the beginning he went around pushing a trolley with water buckets, washing pets and feeding them. He soon attracted volunteers to assist him. A long standing volunteer was able to secure funding from the International Fund of Animal Welfare to assist Joe and his team. Overwhelmed by the funding, Joe decided to hand the project over to this volunteer who grew the Mdzananda Animal Clinic and became the full time Project Manager up until May 2015 when a new Director joined Mdzananda.
The Mdzananda Animal Clinic – Mdzananda which means distemper in the local isiXhosa dialect ( a viral disease affecting many animals in the Khayelitsha community) – was founded in 1996 in response to the need to provide primary veterinary healthcare services to a fast growing community that had no access to help for their animals. It is a permanent, non profit, veterinary council registered animal hospital serving up to 1000 pets per month. Initially Mdzananda worked from a single donated shipping container with no running water or electricity. Today, thanks to the support of our donors, Mdzananda is a fully functioning animal haven running six days a week. Mdzananda, which serves and average of 700 pets per month (mainly dogs and cats) through consultations, hospitilisation, surgery, continuous sterilization, mobile clinics and an animal ambulance. The organisation also focuses on educating the public on animal care and not only helping them understand the needs of animals, but understanding their needs too.
To really understand the Mdzananda Animal Clinic’s work it is essential to understand the Khayelithsa community and its people.,” says Marcelle du Plessis, fundraiser and communications manager. “Khayelitsha has a population of approximately 400 000 people (census 2011). The Western Cape’s unemployment rate stands at 22% (with that of Khayelithsa itself likely to be much higher). 82% of the unemployed are under the age of 40. A typical household consists of 7 adults and a number of children, with 31% of the households falling below the poverty line of R1845/household/month. It is impractical for most people to be able to afford private or even standard veterinary welfare organisation fees. For this reason, the prices which we charge our clients are very low, generally not even covering our cost price. There is very little or no transport for community members to access help for their pets outside of the Khayelitsha area. Most of the time community members cannot even access Mdzananda due to the lack of transport. We often have clients visiting Mdzananda pushing their pets in trolleys, prams or wheelbarrows for over 10km. For this reason we have mobile clinics to serve many Khayelitsha areas. We also have an ambulance service that collects and delivers animals.
No one is exactly certain how many dogs and cats there are in Khayelitsha but it estimated that there is a dog and cat for every six people – a staggering 133 350 companion animals. The majority of dogs and cats within the community are unvaccinated; this combined with the vast number of animals means infectious diseases are extremely prevalent. The lack of knowledge about animal husbandry predisposes to nutritional and parasitic diseases. The lack of established properties and stray dog population finds many animals roaming the township, predisposing to a large number of road traffic accidents. A large number of pets are also unsterilized meaning a constant increase in animals.
The Khayelitsha community lack proactive civic organisation; many residents face significant day-to-day challenges emanating from unemployment, crime and substance abuse. By creating jobs, running the on-site businesses and holding one-day initiatives the clinic hopes to engage and empower the local community while at the same time improving animal welfare. The community of Khayelitsha, suffers high rates of violence, preventable disease, and social distress. Children are born into a cycle of poverty and insecurity, and grow up believing that rape, hunger, violence and cruelty are norms. Animals are victims of this environment as much as children are and the health of the two are inextricably linked. The well-being of animals in a community reflects the welfare of the community and particularly that of its most powerless members: children. Animal welfare problems are people problems: to improve animal welfare, people must feel empowered by empathy, knowledge, hope, and the personal reward of seeing another living being thrive as the result of their responsibility. Addressing the physical and psychological needs of people and animals together forms the core concept of the global One Health paradigm. This is the central tenet of the Mdzananda Animal Clinic.
Marcelle says the Clinic strives to see a community that cares for every animal be it a pet, neighbour’s pet, stray or farm animal. A community that loves animals is a healthy community. By looking after an animal people learn responsibility, respect for life, compassion and non-violence. “Mdzananda works on enhancing the wellbeing of animals and their human companions through providing low cost veterinary health care services, education and by forming partnerships inside and outside of the community. We have a strong focus on community empowerment and education and focus on understanding the community’s needs, embracing this, gaining their respect and trust. Mdzananda is in the community, for the community.”
Pay It forward
There are many ways you can help make a difference and support Mdzananda Animal Clinic, either by volunteering, becoming a Paw Member by committing to making a monthly donation to make the Clinic’s work possible, sponsoring a resident pet, pledging your birthday (instead of receiving presents, ask your friends to make a donation or purchase donations for the Clinic), or making a financial contribution. Bank details are Mdzananda Animal Clinic, Standard Bank, Rondebosch, Account no: 075595710, Branch code: 025009, Reference: Donation Type + Your Name; donate via Sms by smsing ‘donate dog’ to 48748 at R10 and 40580 at R20 (RSA only), or donate goods. For more information call the Clinic at 082 251 0554 or 082 200 9962 or go to Mdzananda Animal Clinic or go to their Mdzananda Animal Clinic Facebook page.