Your chance to find out about our work in Ethiopia, a country with 2.5 million working animals.

A day in the life of a mobile clinic

SPANA Ethiopia director Dr Nigatu Aklilu with brown horseSPANA Ethiopia country director Dr Nigatu Aklilu tells us about a mobile clinic visit to the city of Hawassa, the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region of the country.

9am - We arrive at the Hawassa state-run veterinary clinic after a 230km drive from the SPANA clinic in Debre Zeit. There 28 owners have already registered their names and are waiting patiently for SPANA. First we identify a specific health issue from all of the horses waiting, which we are really concerned about. We can see that many of the horses at the clinic have branding marks or wounds. We ask all of the owners to sit down and we discuss one traditional healer’s activities in the town – hot iron branding. This is a practice believed to treat lameness, where hot irons are pressed on to horses’ skin. We hold a discussion about how this practice harms the horses and afterwards many owners say they are now convinced that this is not a cure for lameness.

10am - After treating some minor cases, we are presented with three horses with wounds caused by branding on the thigh and shoulder regions. We thoroughly clean the wounds, remove the dead tissue, and with their owners apply zinc oxide cream to prevent infection. We show them how to do this so that when we leave they are able to continue the treatment.

Noon - We treat some lameness conditions caused by misplaced shoe nails that have led to hoof abscesses. All owners watch us treat these horses as it is a good example of showing why it is important to visit a trained farrier for shoeing. We advise the owners involved to let their horses rest until they show no signs of lameness.

3pm - By the end of the clinic 40 owners have brought their horses to SPANA and we have examined and treated 63 horses in total. Most horses have come for treatment for wounds, lameness, respiratory disorders or an African horse sickness vaccination. All of the owners are happy with both the veterinary and education services SPANA is providing and are very thankful to us. They mention that SPANA is improving their horse’s health and welfare, which is reflected by the fact that fewer horses are becoming ill. The team returns to our permanent centre at Debre Zeit.

Personal Profile

Nigatu joined SPANA Ethiopia in 2004 and is one of the charity’s most enthusiastic team members. Day-to-day, Nigatu is overseeing the running of the clinics, the cart horse owner education programme and the schoolchildren education programme.

As an expert in his field, Nigatu also lectures on equine medicine and welfare for veterinary students in the country’s leading veterinary school. Each month Nigatu meets with other animal charities to organise joint activities. Nigatu said: “Animal welfare is the key driving force in my life and I get a lot of job satisfaction from being able to alleviate animals’ pain and suffering as part of the SPANA Ethiopia team. When we treat animals I also get to see the happiness and relief in the owners’ faces, whose lives entirely depend on the wellbeing of their animals. These experiences give you real encouragement to work even harder. “All of the SPANA Ethiopia team are incredibly dedicated and if there are any animals seeking treatment, regardless of the time of day or situation, the team will try to help them.”

SPANA Operations

Veterinary Care

  • SPANA started work in Ethiopia in 2002. Our small and dedicated team there were able to provide nearly 11,000 treatments to working animals last year.
  • One permanent centre in Debre Zeit.
  • One Clinical Skills Centre at Debre Zeit University for training young veternarians 
  • Two mobile clinics visiting animals in surrounding towns.
  • The main problems we encounter are animals with wounds, lameness, respiratory disease and a fungal infection called EZL that can be fatal.To help improve the quality of life for the animals we treat in Ethiopia, we provide harness pads for owners to put under their animals’ harnesses to prevent wounds.


Our education work currently consists of a cart horse owner education programme, and a group of after-school animal clubs for children where they can learn about animal needs in a fun environment.

  • 2014 marked the official opening of a new animal handling facility at SPANA’s centre in Addis Ababa
  • 9 new SPANA animal clubs began in autumn 2014, with club leaders and head teachers receiving training at our animal handling centre
  • Altogether SPANA now has 41 clubs across Ethiopia, reaching 2,050 children

Ethiopia at a glance

  • Population: 94.1 million 
  • Area: 1.13 million sq km 
  • Location: Horn of Africa 
  • Capital City: Addis Ababa 
  • Estimated working animal population: 2.5 million


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