I frequently hear the question, “Why do people stay?” Living in zones vulnerable to volcanoes, floods and other disasters, threats to their safety and livelihoods are an unwelcome and often unpredictable part of life. People and their animals live in risky areas the world over and Fogo Island communities are no different.
A common link I have found when talking to them is it simply comes down to no other choice. People do not have the means, or the ability to relocate where they’ve often lived for generations. Traditional homes sometimes represent their spiritual connection to the land and the past traditions.
Volcanoes are a particularly complicated situation as they are among the most fertile places when not erupting and make some of the best farmland. When money and opportunities for making it is scarce, the allure of fields enriched by previous eruptions is easy to understand.
Until late November 2014, in the caldera of Volcan Pico do Fogo, a thriving wine business and hundreds of family farms were the lifeblood of local economies. Goats, by far the most prevalent animal we saw on our assessment of the volcanic disaster on Fogo Island, had plenty of food and life was good.
Then, almost in an instant, everything changed.
Some of the many goats we treated on our assessment in Cabo Verde. December 17, 2014. © World Animal Protection
We worked on Fogo island last week assessing the effects of the volcano’s eruption on thousands goats, cows, pigs, donkeys, mules, chickens, cats and dogs. We’re here as with other disasters because animals need our help and no one else could be. We could only do it thanks to your support.
A tiny piglet, one of twenty five we treated on one farm with vitamins and deworming drugs in Cabo Monte, Fogo Island, Cabo Verde December 18, 2014. © World Animal Protection
We’ve helped pets and livestock displaced by the volcano and worked with local government officials to help where it is most urgently needed as we develop a plan for the next few months to bring the animals back to health.
On our first day, we met a man named Juan Batista Fernande and he asked us if we could look at his little two-year-old female cat named Chaina. She was part of the family and he explained she was normally very friendly but has hid and seemed scared of everyone since moving into the evacuation zone. When we coaxed her out of hiding, we were releived to see she was healthy, if a little skinny. We gave her food as well as a deworming medication as worms are a persistent problem for many animals in the area.
We met a friendly dog named Piloto, the Pires’ family dog. Four years old, energetic and tail wagging wildly, his white coat was ragged and we suspected he could have parasites as well. As he was quite thin, we fed him and gave him vitamins and deworming medications. His owner was very happy and thanked us for helping the animals in this difficult time.
We’ve seen the immediate need and provided emergency feed for an estimated 2,400 animals as well as food for the next two months until the local government can raise funds sufficient for their long term care. We’ve also given veterinary supplies and medications to keep an estimated 20,100 animals healthy as they recover from the effect of relocation, illness and ashfall.
I’ll keep you posted on the progress and need on Fogo Island.