In Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania in north-west Africa, there is no piped water system for its more than 1.3 million residents. Donkeys are used to transport water from house to house, frequently working 12 hour days in temperatures going well above 40 degrees.
Despite the essential role they play in society, the animals often do not get access to the basic necessities they need, such as water, food and veterinary care.
This is partly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a devastating impact on working animals in some of the world’s poorest communities as food and water have become even more critical during the last year.
Local lockdowns have left owners with little to no income, making feeding their family and animals more of a struggle than ever.
To help animals facing this crisis, SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) has been undertaking emergency feeding programmes around the world.
In Mauritania, the charity provided food, water and lifesaving veterinary treatment to more than 97,000 working donkeys and horses throughout the country last year.
On June 15, SPANA will be celebrating its sixth annual International Working Animal Day, when it aims to highlight the plight of the world’s forgotten animal workforce.
Dr Ben Sturgeon, director of veterinary services at SPANA, said: “It’s hard to imagine just how exhausting it would be to carry backbreaking loads, in terrible conditions and extreme heat, every single day.
“Working animals, such as the donkeys and horses of Mauritania, have vital roles – transporting food and water, which are fundamental for the survival of communities.
In Nouakchott alone, a further 30,000 donkeys transport other goods, such as charcoal, construction materials and even rubbish.
To find out how these hardworking animals can be supported, click here.