Ethiopia has the largest equine population in Africa with an estimated 1.91 million horses, 6.75 million donkeys, and 0.35 million mules. It also has one deadly disease threatens the entire population: African horse sickness (or AHS).

At the 7th International Colloquium on Working Equids, taking place July 1-3 in Surrey, England, veterinarians will share how British equine welfare charities are working to fight AHS.

Ethiopian equids work every day to help many of the 92 million people in Ethiopia to survive by transporting water, food, people, and produce. This helps families generate income and makes it possible for them to carry out household tasks.

The horses in Ethiopia suffer from a multitude of infectious diseases and poor management practices. This means that the horses' performance dips dramatically when, often, they fall ill, and the owners who rely on them for their livelihoods struggle to fetch water or bring in the income to feed their families. In addition to malnutrition, the horses also suffer from wounds, ocular disorders, parasites, colic, lameness, and other musculoskeletal problems. Diseases affecting the equine population include epizootic lymphangitis, strangles, tetanus, and ulcerative lymphangitis. The worst of them all, however, is AHS.

Multiple annual outbreaks of this disease are regularly reported and recent studies reveal the existence of new circulating strains of the AHS virus. In an outbreak report published by the World Organization for Animal Health in 2008, a total of 15 outbreaks in south west Ethiopia led to 2,185 equine deaths.

That same year, the country vaccinated 306,454 horses to limit the pro