An emergency fund to help working donkey and mule owners in Africa, Asia and the Americas who are struggling because of the coronavirus outbreak, is being launched by The Donkey Sanctuary.

The Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund will help the most vulnerable people have access to the support they need as well as protecting the welfare of donkeys and mules who will be working harder than ever.

The Donkey Sanctuary will work with partners and international development organisations to fund interventions that directly change the lives of working donkeys and their owners.

Mike Baker, Chief Executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “The global coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the livelihoods of working donkey-owners, at a time when many are already being impacted by climate change, conflict and crop failure.

“Working equids and their ownersare at the frontline of the Covid-19 impacts. The Donkey Sanctuary knows that by tackling the wellbeing of the working animals and the people who work with them, we can support both to be more resilient in an increasingly complex and difficult world”.

“Globally, an estimated 112 million equids are essential to the livelihoods of some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Africa, Asia and the Americas.”

The Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund will provide funding to a wide range of situations, for example, that of The Donkey Sanctuary’s strategic partner, Animal Nepal*.

As part of the Covid-19 lockdown in Nepal, all non-essential services and industries were ordered to close down, and this included the country’s brick kilns, most of which are located on the peripheries of Kathmandu valley and Dhading.

The labourers and working equines within the brick kilns are often working and living in the harshest conditions, and represent some of the poorest households. As a result of the lock down, they had become stranded with minimal supplies and were unable to feed their animals or to travel home.

The Donkey Sanctuary agreed to co-fund an intervention with Animal Nepal to gain government permission to transport and distribute urgent relief supplies to the workers and donkeys at the kilns. Emergency relief packages for equine-owning households containing 25 days’ worth of equine feed, and rice, daal and basic sanitary items for owners were distributed to 167 families and 901 donkeys within the Lalitpur, Dhading and Nepalgunj districts.

Like the charity’s work with Animal Nepal, projects applying for the fund must be able to demonstrate a positive impact on the welfare needs of working donkeys.

Mike Baker concluded: “The Donkey Sanctuary’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund will enable us to work quickly and in collaboration with other partners to reach donkeys in urgent need, whilst also supporting the communities that rely on them. To improve the lives of people, it is essential to improve the lives of working equids; as they boost the income and resilience of communities.”

Around the world, 500 million people still rely on working donkeys and mules as a lifeline to support their livelihoods. In rural areas, working equids are used in farming and transportation and in urban areas; they are often used in construction and refuse collection.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund is available for short-term interventions (three – six months) and the project or implementing partner must be based within Africa, Asia or the Americas.

The total grant that can be requested is between £15,000 and £30,000.

The Donkey Sanctuary is a global leader for equine welfare, research and veterinary care. The charity operates programmes worldwide for animals working in agriculture, industry and transportation.

* The Donkey Sanctuary has been working with Animal Nepal for over 10 years. Animal Nepal runs an Equine Outreach Program in four districts in Nepal – Lalitpur, Dhading, Banke and Gorkha with project work in 33 brick kilns and each year the work supports over 3000 equines including mountain mules. Animal Nepal and The Donkey Sanctuary’s work in the past decade has been vital in improving the welfare of thousands of working equines in Nepal.