By Kamau Mwangi
With disasters and pandemics comes along frustrations and life curve balls. Chaos ensue both in the minds of the people as well as in their actions. To say we have not experienced the blunts of COVID19 pandemic will be the least in the list of the chronicles of our encounters in the practice of veterinary medicine here in the country side.
A baptism with fire for a fresh graduate trying to establish a niche in the market was my encounter. Daktari unajua ni kubaya but we kuja utibu tu (“Doc you know things are tough but kindly come and offer your services”) became a well registered tune in my daily calls almost becoming a slogan for each and every farmer who sought out my services if not a usual banter.
Whilst we are all bound by our veterinary version of Hippocratic Oath turning down such distress calls was equally tantamount to betraying the lifelong commitment to the vows made to the veterinary profession. Vows which are still fresh in our minds, talk of temptations to a newly wed couple.
If ni kubaya “things are tough” wasn’t heartbreaking enough a more familiar phrase was Daktari, we fanya ivi tibu tu alafu uchukue hizi, hizo zingine ntakutumia baadaye. Si number ya mpesa ni ile ile? “Doc, you just treat and kindly accept this partial payment I’ll send you the remainder of the cash later on.” With a humble sunken face, the matriarch of the family uttered these words as the children who had been attracted to the sight of a vet in their homestead gathered around. Our honeymoon dreams of a well remunerating job dwindled with each mention of this phrase. But vows call for commitments for better or for worse right? So we persevered the worst and hoped for the better.
But don’t get the impression that money is the driving force towards our dutiful call to serve mankind and beasts. The shear pride of providing a solution to as to why the favorite cow hasn’t been producing enough gallons of milk, coming on heat or not adding weight yet being fed with Napier grass and the mineral licks that are being advertised in the vernacular radio stations kept us going strong. The smile on the face of the patriarch when you meet at the local shopping center while he’s gladly introducing you to other local wazees with the phrase uyu ni ule daktari nilikuwa nawaambia “this is the vet I was telling you about”. Followed by a long banter of how you saved the life of Martha the favorite cow from eminent death and how she is even producing more milk after the advice you gave on feeding regiments, housing and other welfare improvement acts.
Well besides offering veterinary services covid19 has presented a situation to us veterinarians of explaining to the locals the essence and significance of the various measures instituted by the government to curb its spread. Quarantine and isolation which sounded like a foreign phenomenon to farmers was one of the most intriguing things that farmers always inquired about. Ii quarantine daktari tunaskia inaekwa alafu isolation ni nini haswa? (Doc what is quarantine and isolation all about?) Being veterinarians and having learnt that the easiest way to control disease spread in farms and amongst animals was through quarantine and isolation. We never run short of examples to use while illustrating to farmers on what it is all about and the significance of it.
For most farmers at one time or another had been advised either by vets to isolate sick animals from the healthy ones for easier monitoring and controlling disease spread became a well too conversant example to use. As for the face mask the example of the usual face mask worn by farmers whenever they are spraying their animals with acaricides or when spraying crops against pests and diseases to prevent contact with the drugs is another relevant example that comes in handy. Hand washing and sanitizing became a too well known and appreciated technique in almost all farms and homesteads we visit. Farmers have their own ingenious mechanisms and gadgets of providing hand washing soaps and water which really proved to us that the resilience to live long and healthy is a struggle which every mankind desires to.
Though the pandemic is still with us and not yet under full control it has brought about the essence of good hygiene measures and bio-security measures which some if utilized to eternity like hand washing and sanitizing, will bring down some diseases like cholera.