The Union of Veterinary Practitioners Kenya (UVPK) issued a 60 Days strike notice upon which lapsing will see all veterinary professionals and vet assistants down their tools. Seven days have since been past and still no action to reconcile has been taken by the government. Just what is at stake if the imminent strike occurs? This post seeks to highlight and inform of the possible effects and perhaps importantly caution you to prepare.

Veterinary practitioners in Kenya offer a wide range of services and are perhaps the most unappreciated lot of people in the recent time. The veterinary profession is multi-tiered just as most of health care fields. Veterinarians in Kenya do specialize in disciplines like surgery, emergency and critical care, dermatology, internal medicine, radiology among others. Specialties are recognized by the Kenya Veterinary Board and veterinarians licensed to practice in large animal and small animal surgery. Veterinarians are assisted by veterinary paraprofessionals who also are as important in animal health management.

Certainly, veterinary professionals are pretty amazing in that they safeguard the health and welfare of animals, from personal pets to livestock, zoo animals or even injured wild animals. Not only that, veterinarians are the gatekeepers protecting humans from zoonosis. They deal with among others, live threatening viruses as the first line of defense for animal and human health. Understandably, these noble workers cannot disposed and thus their cries must be heard for the good of the public.

Why are the Veterinary Workers Dissatisfied?

In a letter by the UVPK dated January 10, 2023, veterinary practitioners the shortage of veterinary doctors and veterinary Para professions assigned in surveillance and clearances points as well as reference laboratories, alleging that the available workers are overworked without fair compensation. “The state department of health has a shortfall of about 1000 veterinary practitioners while counties have and estimated shortfall of 20,000 veterinary surgeons and veterinary paraprofessionals.” Read part of the letter. Union in the letter claims poor pay despite the work being extraneous and considering the risks involved. Further UVPK expresses dissatisfaction in how the Salaries and Remuneration Commission has been dealing with the Union members. Dr. Miheso Mulembani, the secretary general to UVPK, says in the letter that the government through SRC has been programmed to deny veterinary practitioners their right to fair compensation.

UVPK in the letter further called out the failure to post of veterinary interns for post graduate training. “Veterinary and animal health Graduates are languishing in villages without posting by the State department of Livestock. This is uncalled for at a time when there is extreme shortage of practitioners.” reads the letter. These and the failure of some county governments to sign CBAs with the Union are the reasons why the veterinary practitioners may withdraw their services.

Why is it important that these cries are addressed?

Dr. David Kibaria, a veterinary surgeon notes that, “a government that neglects veterinary services and doctors may be viewed as not being serious about its development agenda, public health, food security, and the well-being of its population.” So, how bad will it be if the strike proceeds?

  1. There will be no treatment of animals which in turn will lead to economic losses due to death of animals. The livestock industry greatly contributes towards the country’s GDP. Therefore, the lack of veterinary care will not only mean diseases and death of animals, but also reduced productivity, denying farmers their source of income.
  2. Imagine a scenario where there is no meat inspection. The result is either ta decrease in meat supply or the population consumes uninspected meat posing a grave danger to our health. This country is not short of incidences where the public has consumed uninspected meat leading to deaths and illnesses. “Veterinary services and doctors play a crucial role in preventing and controlling the spread of diseases, which can have a significant impact on both animal and human health. Neglecting veterinary service providers can lead to and increase in the spread of zoonotic diseases.” Notes Dr. Kibaria.
  3. Veterinary practitioners are responsible for the issuance of sanitary documents such as those used in animal movement. A strike would mean that you will not get a movement permit and thus will not be able to move your animals for sale. The overall effect will be the closure of sale yards.
  4. The veterinary service providers are responsible in for the surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of diseases with the potential of infecting humans. Recent disease reporting has shown outbreaks of anthrax and rabies disease. These and extremely fatal infections. Withdrawal of services by veterinarians will leave the outbreaks unmitigated and thus posing an even greater risk to the public.
  5. A strike by the veterinary professionals will see a shutdown of control posts such as the border and airports. This will in turn humper international trade in livestock and livestock products. Similarly, importation or even exportation of veterinary drugs will be hindered, which will see to it a shortage of drugs necessary for the treatment of animals. It is hard to imagine a poultry farmer, with a thousand chicks lacking necessary vaccines to protect his/her flock against deadly infections such as Newcastle and Marek’s disease.

These coupled with other effects are reasons why we cannot ignore the veterinarian’s’ cry. Otherwise, the collapse of the entire livestock sector and dependent sectors such as the hotel industry is imminent. The government committed to addressing the needs of its citizen cannot afford to neglect the veterinary service providers. We (the veterinary practitioners) invite you to join our cause in calling the government into action and sort out the stalemate.