Snakebite: WHO targets 50 percent reduction in deaths and disabilities by 2030

THE World Health Organisation has developed a new strategy to prevent and control snakebite envenoming (or poisoning).

The strategy is targeting to reduce deaths and disabilities due to snakebites by 50 per cent before 2030.

Titled “Snakebite envenoming: a strategy for prevention and control”, the strategy would be launched at a meeting hosted by the Nigerian government and the Republic of Costa Rica on May 23 in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to an executive summary of the strategy, the central objective is to ensure access to safe, effective and affordable treatment such as antivenoms and ancillary medical care. It will also prioritise the supply and distribution of life-saving antivenoms and other commodities needed to treat snakebites. This is because snakebites poisoning requires urgent medical attention to save the lives of the victims.

Snakebites, according to the report, is a neglected tropical disease that affects 1.8 to 2.7 million people each year. It claims about 81,000—138,000 lives while causing 400,000 cases of permanent disability each year. The snakebites poisoning is “responsible for enormous suffering, disability and premature death on every continent”.

The people at high risk of being bitten by snakes are poor rural dwellers, agriculture workers, herders, fishermen, people living in poorly constructed housing. The WHO also noted that young children, aged under five years, suffer high case of fatality.

Snakebite in Nigeria is said to be on the increase in 2019. According to Abdulrazaq Habib of the Nigeria Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre,  in a Dailytrust report, the country has the highest burden of snakebites in Africa. He said, “it kills about 2,000 and maims 3,000 Nigerians every year”.

    A report by NAN on March 27 disclosed how deaths from snakebites have become massive due to lack of anti-snake venom (a drug that suppressed snake poisoning) in Nigeria. It had quoted Nandul Durfa, Managing Director that handles the collection and distribution of  Anti-Snake Venom (ASV) in Nigeria. “As at January, we had less than 200 vials left for the whole country. The report we get from the snakebite treatment centres is mind blogging, but there isn’t much we can do,’’ Durfa said.

    Though, on April 27,  Nigeria received fresh doses of 4000 ASV.  Commenting on the late collection, Durfa said the shortage of ASV would persist unless the country starts producing the drug locally. Nigeria, he said, was still depending on foreign countries for ASV to neutralise poison from very common snakes like viper, cobra and puff adder.

    “The only time we can have enough ASV to meet our rising demand is when we produce it locally,” he said.

    WHO, in its new strategy to be launched later this month, said it will work with countries to encourage research on new treatments, diagnostics and health device breakthroughs that can improve treatment outcomes for victims and hasten recovery. As well as to work with countries to strengthen health systems towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and its related targets including improving health and well-being and reducing inequity.

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