Women’s Day feature: Ms Latee

Ms Latee, resident PAHW in Paksapkao village, lives with her husband, her dog, 5 hens, and several chicks and her mother lives right next door. Several years ago, Ms. Latee raised a small amount of livestock, but the manual labor became too difficult and she now is a Primary Animal Health worker for the village and also has a plot in the local organic vegetable gardens.

Ms. Latee has been a Primary Animal Health Worker for the past year. Before she began her training in animal health, she was a human health worker in her community for 3 years. With a background knowledge of vaccination benefits in children, she was motivated to train as a PAWH in order to learn more about animal diseases so that she could treat livestock in her home village.  She also wanted to be able to share the knowledge she gained with other villagers, as well as the village chief, so that he could be a community resource when an animal became ill. Ms.

Latee’s natural disposition to share information and always be available for help earned her the award for “Most Helpful PAHW”. As a woman, it is sometimes hard for Ms. Latee to treat some of the larger animals that have problems. It can sometimes be the most difficult part of her job. However, the other PAHW that works in her village is always available to help her if the owner of the animal cannot.

Conversely, she says that as a woman, it is easier for her to do the education part of her job. Community members listen to her as she tries to help them understand the importance of vaccinating livestock and which drugs to use when. The thing that Ms. Latee is the most proud of in her work with animal care is that she has gained so much knowledge about animal diseases and treatments.

International Women’s Day is a national holiday in Laos. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the lives of women around the world.  Who are the women in your life?

By Katie Foster

Find out more in our special Women’s Day Big Picture Postcard here!

Moving forward in 2014

It’s only February but it’s been a busy 2014 so far! Last week we ran the third intensive week of PAHW training, helping the PAHWs move to being more self-sufficient in basic animal health skills and advising on farm management.

The vegetable production project is going from strength to strength as farmers practise recording their production activities and learning about how to market their vegetables – producing a regular supply, varied selection, and coordinating their crops. It will take some months for everyone to really get a hang of it but some of the motivated volunteers are leading the way.

PAHWs at the forefront

This month has seen the relaunch of the successful Livestock Clinics in 5 villages in Houychiem. Combining in-depth practical training with community outreach, the clinics are a way to give PAHWs village-based training whilst sensitising farmers to the importance of livestock vaccination, parasite burdens, and general farm management.

Using learner-centred approaches, the team encourages each PAHW to do a clinical exam, assess the situation of each animal and make a decision on appropriate treatment.  The PAHWs are thus building up their problem-solving skills during real case examples.   This week the clinics have focused on blackleg vaccination and parasite treatment.

The clinics were alsoa great opportunity to share knowledge about traditional treatments, such as using lemon for eye infections.   Check out some of the pictures here!

Livestock clinic team in Napok
Learning to assess body weight
Calculating drug dosage

Lights, Camera, Action!

Gordon and Judy are Canadian videographers producing a film to highlight the current Vets without Borders projects in Laos. This dynamic husband-wife team has joined us in the field to get some exciting footage of the PAHWs in action! On the final day of filming, we arranged individual interviews with a few PAWHs so that Gordon and Judy could capture their personal experiences with the project and impact that it has had on their community.

Arriving in Dounien Village for PAHW interviews.

Daovy, Margot, Gordon, Judy and I traveled to Dounien, one of the eleven villages participating in the project. Here we were greeted by two PAHWs, Khamla and Phonetip. After a brief tour of this charming village we settled into a quiet spot to begin the interviews. Khamla and Phonetip gathered a few plastic chairs from the local church as Gordon and Judy set up the camera, microphones and reflector.

Interview with Khamla
Gordon and Judy get ready for the interview with Khamla.

The PAHWs were admittedly nervous. They had never done anything like this before and the idea of being in the spotlight was intimidating. Daovy, our Project Co-ordinator, lead the interviews. She asked each PAWH a series of five questions allowing them to explain and elaborate their answers before translating them into English so that the rest of us could understand.

In Lao, the word “daovy” means star and that’s exactly what she is! Watching her translate is impressive to say the least. She has this unique ability to seamlessly switch between languages and communicate a message without losing context, emotion or even a joke. It’s a talent that never ceases to amaze me!

Daovy interviews Phonetip about his experience as a PAHW.

Khalma and Phonetip explained that they were motivated to become PAHWs by their desire to improve the health of animals and people in their community. Khamla said that he was proud of his new responsibilities because he knows that keeping animals healthy helps improve the livelihood of the entire village. Phonetip explained that he was happy to have learned new things about animal health, farm management and disease prevention. The interviews only lasted a few minutes but in that short time I started to understand what it really means to be a Primary Animal Health Worker.

Phonetip (front right) and Khamla (back center) in action during vaccination training.

Now that Gordon and Judy have collected all of this awesome footage in the field, the tedious editing process begins. Somehow they will to work their magic to turn hours of filming into a short three minute clip!

Stay tuned for the official release of the video. But for now, that’s a wrap!





For more information on Vets without Borders or to make a contribution to our cause, please visit our website:






PAHWs for Applause: Vaccination Campaign off to Successful Start

Laos is on the brink of rainy season. A bountiful rainy season is crucial for agricultural production however; it also creates environmental conditions that promote bacterial growth. This can put farm animals at risk for diseases like Hemorrhagic Septicemia [1]. Vaccination is the best way to protect cattle and prevent death from this disease. That’s why our team from Vets without Borders and NUOL is training Primary Animal Health Workers (PAHWs) on cattle vaccination. This training will provide PAHWs with the knowledge they need to educate local farmers on the benefits of cattle vaccination and give them the skills to administer the vaccines independently.

PAHWs watch attentively as Vet. Margot demonstrates how to properly fill a syringe with vaccine.
Margot uses a stethoscope to listen to the breathing of a distressed calf.

After last week’s theory-based training, PAHWs mobilized for the first day of practical training on the Faculty of Agriculture (FoA) Cattle Farm. After a quick review of the proper technique and a demonstration by Vet. Margot, the PAHWs were eager to give cattle vaccination a shot (literally!)

PAHWs use a digital thermometer to check the body temperature of a calf.

It was chaotic in the cattle pen at first, but our PAHWs were unfazed! With the guidance of Prof. Chantha and Vet. Margot, the PAHWs assembled into teams and worked together to restrain the cattle. One by one, the PAHWs filled their syringes with vaccine, handled the cattle and administered the injection.

This was my first time witnessing cattle vaccination. It was so exciting! I watched each PAHW closely and keenly took down notes to make sure every PAHW got a chance to show us their skills. As I checked their names off my list, they smiled proudly, happy to have successfully completed each task.

After only a couple of hours, the PAHWs had already vaccinated 36 heads of cattle!

This is a cattle pen in Palai Village. Notice how different it is from the pen we worked with at the Faculty of Agriculture Cattle Farm.
PAHWs take turns filling syringes with vaccine for Hemorrhagic Septicemia.

With the first day of practice under their belts, the PAHWs were ready to conquer day two of practical training. This time we assembled in Palai Village to see how PAHWs would perform on a real farm.

PAHWs working together to handle and vaccinate cattle in Palai.

Every farm we visited was different and it was impressive to see how quickly the PAHWs could adapt their skills based on the environment they had to work with. Handling the cattle was more difficult without the structural facilities of the FoA Cattle Farm but our group of talented PAHWs managed to overcome the obstacles and vaccinate another 29 heads of cattle.

This brings our grand total of vaccinated cattle to 65!

It was a two-day vaccination sensation! Now our trained PAHWs are ready to continue the Hemorrhagic Septicemia vaccination campaign in their own villages.

PAHWs write down the name of each farm they visit and the number of cattle they vaccinate. This helps them keep track of the village's protection against disease.




For more information on Vets without Borders or to make a contribution to our cause, please visit our website:





[1] Merck (2012). Transmission, epidemiology, and Pathogenesis. Overview of Hemorrhagic Septcemia. Retrieved on May 16, 2013 from http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/generalized_conditions/hemorrhagic_septicemia /overview_of_ hemorrhagic_septicemia.html


Smart PAHWs with smartphones

Written by Fabienne

We have finally been able do a preliminary smartphone field test of the poultry raising app with a sub-sample of 8 PAHWs!

Our initial aim is to determine whether smartphone-based knowledge mobilization can help build PAHWs’ capacity in animal health. If
successful, this method will contribute to sustainability and security of our overall objectives in Laos, which are to improve livestock-based food security, income and social capital. The current app is focused on best practices in poultryraising and covers topics such as ‘Selection & Reproduction’, ‘Nutrition & Feeding’ and ‘Housing’. With lots of photographs, ‘how-to’ videos, and easy to follow text, it is catching the PAHWs’ interest and offers them a quick resource to important information.

But while cellular phones are widespread in Laos, many of the PAHWs have never used a smartphone before. Project team member and
smartphone app expert Bounlerth from FoA did an excellent job guiding the PAHWsthrough the basics such as how to turn on and off the phone, how to swipe from one screen to the next and how to find all the information in the app. Everyone was eager to figure it out and caught on really quickly! Following this introduction, the 8 PAHWs got to test their app for one week, at the end of which they reported back to us on how easy it was for them to use the phone, the app and what they liked or didn’t like about the app and the information it provided. We have been very encouraged to hear that none of the PAHWs had a problem using the phone or the app itself!

So what is next? The team will make some final   adjustments, download the app to all the smartphones and ensure their accurate performance… and then… then we are ready to launch the app and release it to all the PAHWs in our project! How exciting is that?!


Rabies campaign 2012

Between November 23 to December 7, 2012, 1,393 dogs, 121 cats and 1 monkey were vaccinated against rabies.  According to the dog count provided, this means we vaccinated 75% of the dog population, in line with the 70% recommended for mass rabies vaccination campaigns.

Thanks to the team from NUOL, volunteer students, partners and the PAHWs for all their hard work!  And thanks to  photographers Ernest Goh, Chung Hua Siong and Ore Huiying for their wonderful photos!  We are excited that the Lao government is developing a Rabies Eradication Strategy and will be happy to share information from our campaign to support this initiative.

Rabies vaccination campaign. Top, Senoudom village. Bottom, Veunten village. Photography by Ore Huiying/ The Animal Book Co.

Gearing up for the 2nd rabies campaign

Life may seem simple in a village, but the yearly calendar is a considered sequence of activities related to farming, schooling, festivals and other types of work. It is important to make sure that activities run through the VEVEP project tie in carefully with communities’ occupations and priorities.

This year we decided to hold the rabies campaign a little later after World Rabies Day.  We are delighted to hear that the District Agriculture and Forestry Office is also including rabies vaccination as part of their National Vaccination Day to be held in mid November.

Our new Veterinarian and Livelihoods Officer, Dr Fabienne Uehlinger, is working closely with the team at Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos, to prepare for the campaign. Planning involves steps like writing to all village chiefs about the campaign, mobilising Primary Animal Health workers (PAHWs) to provide estimated dog counts for each village, sourcing adequate doses of vaccine, and holding refresher trainings with all participating members to review procedures and feel comfortable before the event.

A successful clinic involves coordinated efforts between all team members to vaccinate the dogs, provide vaccination certificates, ask dog owners to complete a simple knowledge survey, and provide important information to all dog owners about bite prevention and treatment and rabies prevention.  The campaign will start on 24th November – and we hope to reach even more dogs than last year!

(Image from WHO, WSPA, World Rabies Day poster in Lao)



Mobile technology research sheds light to efficient poultry feeding

As part of an innovative project to launch later this year, VWB is working with educational publisher & new media developer Lifelearn and the University of Calgary, to launch a mobile technology based training model.

There is global recognition that smartphones and new media technology can have a huge impact on smallholder agriculture, from sms updates on crop prices and weather, pest management to outbreak and emergency response.
Yet our investigations showed few examples of mobile phone based training at the village level.  In this ambitious project, project team members and NUOL faculty will train PAHWs to use smartphone-based apps as training resources to add to the mentoring and training resources they receive in person. PAHWs will also be able to sms each other about latest developments and upload photos of the cases they encounter.


Leah Stephenson and Erin Fraser will be discussing this exciting project at the upcoming

Global Development Symposium in Guelph, Canada (6-9 May)

and at the Technologies for Sustainable Development: A Way to Reduce Poverty? event, 29-31 May, Lausanne, Switzerland.

In researching topics for the mobile based training, our team was excited to learn about various methods households employ to feed poultry and use resources efficiently.  Anne Drew and husband Thom recently met a woman farmer who uses pickled banana stem, grasses and amaranth to prepare feed for her poultry.  We hope that through this technology we can help facilitate more farmers to share their learnings and techniques and train and support each other.

More information will follow later this year when the smartphone project goes live!

Thanks to the IDRC, Lifelearn and University of Calgary for their generous funding and in-kind support.


Poultry vaccination for improved chickens

This month the Laos Village Ecohealth team and our Primary Animal Health Workers (PAHWs) have been working hard to ensure new chicks and adults chickens receive their vaccinations of Newcastle disease and Infectious bronchitis. With current cold spells it is all the more important to ensure that not only are poultry being vaccinated, but also adequately fed and housed.

On my recent field visits with the team it was impressive to see the PAHWs work hard to create an efficient vaccination system. Anne, Lampheuy and Malavanh have been preparing a comprehensive training program for PAHWs and for the participants of VWB’s poultry project, which we launched last year.

The chicks you can see in the photos include improved breed yellow chickens. The team is using action research to determine the productivity and resilience of the new breed, encouraging families to keep some eggs for household consumption, as well as gaining income from future bird sales.

Poultry project participants, Hadviengkham village
PAHW and Ecohealth mentor vaccinate chickens, Thachampa village