A day with the Indian Vet

UNIFIL veterinary assistant Mr. Anand treating a goat in a farm in Kafer Chouba.

Indian Battalion vet Lt. Col. Rakesh Sharma examining a shepherd’s mule in the Shebaa region of South Lebanon.

Local shepherd leading his herd to the family farm near Kafer Couba.

UNIFIL veterinary doctor Lt. Col. Sharma handing out medicine to a shepherd in Kafer Chouba region.

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6 Dec 2012

A day with the Indian Vet

"Mabrouk! She is four and a half months pregnant" said UNIFIL's Indian veterinarian doctor Lt. Col. Rakesh Sharma to the Lebanese farmer Naaman Salika.

Mr. Salika who lives in the town of Abou Kamma was hoping for good news. After having checked all of his cows, the Indian vet congratulated Salika for the pregnancy of three of them, and proceeded to give him advice to ensure the pregnant cows' continued health.

Lt. Col. Sharma removed his gloves and protective gear and went on touring the villages in the Shebaa region as he always does from Monday to Friday of every week, reserving the Saturdays for surgeries unless in cases of emergency.

The famous Indian vet is in high demand in this region of South Lebanon, where 90% of its inhabitants possess and rely on farm animals such as poultry, goats, sheep, cows, horses and even dogs and cats.

The Indian battalion has been part of UNIFIL since 1998 and a veterinarian has always been part of it since the beginning, initially only to tend to the battalion's sniffer dog unit. However, over the years, the role of the vet diversified and expanded to veterinary services for the people of South Lebanon.

Presently the Indian vet provides door to door veterinary services to 9 villages in its area of operations, which has a farm animal population of over thirty thousand goats and sheep, one thousand cows, five hundred and fifty horses and mules, one thousand two hundred dogs and cats, and over fifty thousand poultry. Additionally, the Indian veterinary hospital in Nakar Kawkaba is ready to provide care 24/7.

Touring with Lt. Col. Sharma from one household to another, one can instantly sense the gratitude and respect the farmers and shepherds have for the Indian vet. They cheer up when they see him, knowing that whatever the problem with their animals, he would know and give them the right medication and treatment for it.
"We have sick and suffering animals being brought to us from places as far as the Bekaa Valley and Nabatiye, sometimes even from Beirut" said Lt. Col. Sharma.

The Indian vet has successfully carried out various surgeries that include removal of bullets from hunting dogs, and treatment of gunshot wounds to falcons, pigeons, and owls. Very common is the treatment of fractures using splints and casts, since bone fractures are very frequent in the area, as was the case with the shepherd Nasser Nasser's goat.

Amidst our tour to the villages, the Indian vet received an emergency call. To Kafarshuba we diverted our route, where the vet was met with open arms. Nasser Nasser soon started explaining to the vet's translator how a large stone had fallen on his goat resulting in the animal no longer being able to move.

After a few inquiries and a thorough examination, the vet reassured Nasser that there was no bone fracture, just a slight dislocation of the hip joint. Lt. Col. Sharma gave the shepherd the necessary medication and went on to examine his poultry which was plagued by the flue.
"The Indian vet is extremely nice and responsive to us, always helps us on a weekly basis" said Nasser in appreciation.

The role of the Indian veterinary doctor was extended to the field of public health too. He has been advising farmers about signs of bad quality meat and milk. He has an ongoing campaign to vaccinate about 500 dogs against rabies, in addition to running the TNR programme that consist of trapping stray dogs that can transfer diseases, neutering them, and preparing them for adoption.

People call the Indian vet even at the smallest signs of abnormal behavior, such as when their animals stop eating well. Hassan Nabaa was worried about his pony. "He hasn't been eating well these past few days, and I wanted the vet to check up on him" he said.

The vet examined him, asking the necessary questions before reassuring Hassan that all his pony needs is some vitamins to work on his appetite. And as every farmer or shepherd in the area, Hassan was extremely thankful to the Indian vet.

During Lt. Col. Sharma's seven months of duty in South Lebanon, he has picked up a few Arabic words to understand the problems of farmers for times when the translators are not around. When he interacts with the children of the shepherds and farmers, which is often, he encourages them to continue their school studies so that someday they might become a "Hakim al-Baiteri" or vet.


Article: Ghinwa El Deek
Photos: Pascual Gorriz Marcos
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