Veterinary and Nursing teachers and students launch a One Health cooperation project in Benin

The University of Extremadura carries out two shifts where participants will carry out activities aimed at improving human and animal health.

This summer, students and professors from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the Faculty of Nursing and Occupational Therapy will travel to Benin, a country in West Africa, to carry out the international cooperation project “One Health: Humans, Animals and the Environment in a Tropical Environment”. They will travel in two shifts, in July and at the end of August and beginning of September, where they will carry out activities aimed at improving human and animal health, understanding this concept as an interrelated and inseparable whole, in association with the NGO ASAIS, based in this African republic.

The planned activities include providing outpatient care to patients suffering from various pathologies, purifying drinking water, deworming animals that live closely with people in the home, disinfestation in the most populated areas to reduce the concentration of vectors capable of transmitting tropical diseases, and finally, the delivery of educational talks aimed at improving hygiene and the general health of communities.

One Health Relationships

Joaquín Rey Pérez, professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and one of the project participants, states that “the project is based on the belief that human health is directly related to the health of animals and the environment in which people grow up.” “It is important both in a normal environment and in a tropical one, such as the country we are going to visit, Benin, which is in the Gulf of Equatorial Guinea.” The professors and students from the University of Extremadura are going to carry out a first group of cooperation actions related to the factors that surround and condition the development of diseases, such as water purification, since they are going to plan a water treatment plant, and the study of the vectors that transmit tropical diseases such as malaria or yellow fever, which are not well classified. “We are going to establish a disinfestation plan for the most populated areas, both from the point of view of the population and the existence of vectors, and study the diseases they transmit that are not yet well classified. We are going to bring back samples of these vectors, which are insects, for analysis,” explains Rey. Although there is no livestock as such, but rather animals that live in the domestic environment with people, the animals will be dewormed and the zoonotic diseases they transmit will be characterized.

Another of the professors who will travel to Benin is Juan Francisco Morán Cortés, from the Nursing Department of the Plasencia University Centre. “The students we train in the field of health will be able to see the importance of community care and primary care from all points of view in depressed or vulnerable populations, as is the case in Benin.” “We are going to concentrate on health care, increasing resilience and strengthening the local part through a localised dispensary that serves a direct population of 1,500 people, although the intervention area around it is 30,000 people. It is an important point of care for that entire community.” Workshops will be held on the prevention of malaria and zoonotic diseases. There will also be a screening of malnutrition suffered by children in the area.

The dean of the Faculty of Nursing and Occupational Therapy, Raúl Roncero, has highlighted the added value that this will mean for students: “they will acquire skills that would not be possible in our environment.”

The dean of Veterinary Medicine, Enrique Pérez Martín, has sincerely thanked public and private institutions for their contribution to making this international cooperation project a reality. “Thanks to the Provincial Council of Cáceres, which has been involved in this project with the NGO, which is going to take a container of medical supplies and social investment, and to the University of Extremadura. And thanks to the Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Colleges of Cáceres and Badajoz and the General Council of Veterinary Colleges of Spain. The SES, the Extremadura Health Service, has donated medical supplies to take in the container.” Enrique Pérez highlighted the importance of the “One Health” concept: “There is a need to help a population that is depressed from a health point of view, but we are going to have these problems here soon, in fact, they are already appearing, such as the West Nile virus or suspected cases of dengue.” “Helping the people who live in that area will also help us, because we are going to learn from what is happening there. We learn more than we teach. We are going to learn from the human, scientific and health perspectives,” the dean reiterates.

The First Vice President of the Provincial Council of Cáceres, Esther Gutiérrez, recalled the institution’s long history in cooperation. She highlighted how interesting the cooperation project led by UEx seemed to them, “not only for improving the lives of the people of Benin, but also for the opportunity it offers teachers and students to enrich themselves on a personal and professional level through this great experience.”

The Vice-Rector for University Extension, Teresa Terrón Reynolds, closed the order of interventions in the presentation of the cooperation project “One Health: Humans, Animals and the Environment in a tropical environment”. “The University of Extremadura promotes a cooperative effort that once again demonstrates that we responsibly assume the commitments that our society currently demands. International cooperation is deeply rooted among students, teaching staff and technical administration and services staff at UEx and is a fundamental pillar for the progress and development of the contemporary world”, he states.

Through this cooperation initiative, the University of Extremadura aims to provide students with comprehensive training that not only covers the professional and scientific field, but also fosters solidarity, thus complementing the desired human profile in university students. This first activity is considered a pilot experience for future collaborations.


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