To really understand the Mdzananda Animal Clinic's work it is essential to understand the Khayelithsa community and its people.
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 can not even access Mdzananda due to the lack of transport. We often have clients visiting Mdzananda pushing their pets in trollies, prams or wheelburrows 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
Societal and family structures in post-apartheid South African townships tend to 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.