Health Ministry steps up efforts to curb snakebite deaths

WHO has identified snakebite poisoning as a neglected tropical disease. [iStockphoto]

World Health Organization (WHO) has identified snakebite poisoning as a neglected tropical disease as the government pushes for partnership to address the same.

WHO attributed the situation to global shortage of resources, especially high-quality research.

"One of the challenges that we have had in Kenya and Africa as a whole is that we rely mostly on imported anti-venom for snakebites, mostly from Europe and India,” said Kenya Institute of Primate Research (KIPRE) Director General Gichuhi Mwethera.

“Unfortunately, most of the anti-venoms are not effective. We can make a difference by developing better anti-venoms locally, using venom from our region as the starting material,” he added.

The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the KIPRE, on March 13, 2024, launched the African Snakebite Alliance (ASA) to address the rising snakebite-related deaths and disabilities across Africa.

Mwethera said ASA's primary objective is to facilitate local production of anti-venom to ensure affordability and accessibility.

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) co-director Ymkje Stienstra said that their partnership with renowned snakebite experts aims to spearhead the fight against deadly snakebite envenoming.

The partners include the Wellcome Trust, University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) and others from Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Eswatini.

Prof Stienstra, emphasized the significance of ASA in improving health outcomes for snake bite victims.

“This initiative of the ASA will strengthen the international scientific community by linking up with policymakers and community groups in Africa, aiming to improve health outcomes for people affected by snakebite envenoming and address evidence gaps in policy and practice,” she said.

Public Health Principal Secretary Mary Muthoni Muriuki said the alliance seeks to translate research findings into actionable solutions on the ground.

Ms Muriuki further noted that this will align with WHO's ambitious target of halving snakebite-related deaths and disabilities globally by 2030.

The PS said that ASA’s focus is to prioritise impactful research and policy initiatives aimed at improving the well-being of snakebite victims.

“Snakebite envenoming is a public health matter, and if we could address and end all neglected tropical diseases irrespective of other issues there would be impactful outcomes toward reaching the WHO roadmap of neglected tropical disease for 2021-2030,” she said.

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