Occupational Practices and Hazards of Rural Livestock Keepers in Uganda: A Cross-Sectional Study

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Julianne Meisner
Kellie Curtis
Thomas Graham
Peter Rabinowitz


Objective: In Uganda, 70% of rural poor rely on livestock for subsistence, to meet social obligations, and to insure against disaster. Livestock farming in Africa is in a state of transition from traditional management systems toward intensified modern systems, calling into question the future of traditional systems. To inform this debate, we conducted a survey in Moyo District, Uganda, to describe occupational practices and hazards of agropastoralist livestock keepers.

Methods: Household surveys were administered to heads of household (N=49) from July to September 2016. Cross-sectional data were used to generate descriptive statistics for livestock-associated practices and exposures. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios and Wald-type 95% confidence intervals for risk factors for injury, defined as any animal-related injury in the household in the past year. Risk factors studied were total number of male animals; number of male cattle, sheep/goats, and pigs; proportion male by herd size; herd size; and castration practices.

Results: Adult men perform most livestock-associated tasks, while women, girls, and boys prepare meat, milk cattle, care for poultry, and dispose of waste. While 31 (63%) of households use professional veterinary services and most (n=28, 57.2%) are familiar with zoonoses, 25 (53.2%) do not believe sick animals may look healthy. Over 85.0% (n=41) of respondents routinely wash their hands, while only 31 (64.6%) use soap. Twenty-eight (57.0%) reported using personal protective equipment, while none used gloves or face protection. Most respondents had contact with animal waste “often”, and had contact with urine and blood “sometimes”. Six (12%) reported a needlestick injury while treating an animal, and 22 (45%) reported at least 1 injury from an animal. No significant association was found between the risk factors studied and animal injury, after adjustment for confounders.

Conclusions: Occupational risks for female and young agropastoralists are distinct from those of men. Contact with potentially infectious material is common and current practices – handwashing without soap and low glove use – do little to prevent zoonotic transmission. While agropastoralists are familiar with zoonoses, subclinical infections may be missed. While no significant risk factors were identified for animal injury, both animal and needlestick injuries are common. As livestock agriculture intensifies, these hazards will become more pronounced; drivers of risk behavior and animal injury must be identified to inform interventions to improve the occupational health of rural livestock keepers in Uganda.

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