International Snakebite Awareness Day!

Today is Snakebite Awareness Day and it gives us a unique opportunity to give victims of this global health crisis the attention they deserve!

Snakebite envenoming was officially listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a category A (highest priority) Neglected Tropical Disease in 2017. Earlier this year, the World Health Assembly, comprised of representatives from Ministries of Health in all 193 U.N. Member States, convened in Geneva and adopted a robust resolution calling for greater global, regional and country-based efforts to reduce the burden of snakebite.

Today – 19 September – a coalition of organisations (Global Snakebite Initiative, Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Lillian Lincoln Foundation, The Kofi Annan Foundation, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, The International Society on Toxinology, The Wellcome Trust, Health Action International, Médecins sans Frontières, Seqirus, Instituto Clodomiro Picado, Instituto de Biomedicina de Valencia and the Australian Venom Research Unit) are working on global health and tropical medicine around the world to announce the first-ever International Snakebite Awareness Day!

The launch of International Snakebite Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of the huge, yet mostly unrecognized, global impact of snakebite.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 81,000 and 138,000 people around the world die each year from snakebite and up to 400,000 are left permanently disabled or disfigured, as a result of being bitten by venomous snakes. In many communities, these permanent injuries result in people being discriminated against and ostracized, ultimately leading to crippling loss of income, debt, mental health issues and reduced quality of life.

 “Snakebites can cause paralysis, fatal hemorrhages, irreversible kidney failure and tissue damage that can lead to disability and amputation. The number of people being bitten by snakes each year could be as high as 5.4 million according to WHO. The fact that snakebite is not being recognized on the global stage must change.” -Tamar Ghosh, CEO of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

In 2017, the World Health Organization added snakebite envenoming to its list of highest priority Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and in May this year the 71st World Health Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the governments of the world and the WHO to tackle the problem.

“Developing a sustainable package of interventions to reduce the burden of death and suffering is a substantial challenge. The WHO has started the process of preparing a strategic road map that aims at cutting deaths and disability by 50% before 2030. But to succeed the WHO needs support and assistance from a wide range of partners, and in that regard, establishing an International Snakebite Awareness Day is a huge step in the right direction.” -Dr David Williams, CEO of the Global Snakebite Initiative

The current crisis is similar to that which other neglected diseases have already overcome through international collaborative action. The coalition hopes that International Snakebite Awareness Day will galvanize action around the issue and add momentum to a call, which was supported by the late Kofi Annan, on national governments, health agencies, pharmaceutical companies and non-governmental organisations to prioritize snakebite as a global health issue so that many thousands of lives are saved!

For the millions of people who are bitten every year, all of this means no access to the effective treatment they desperately need. But when the global community comes together and makes a collective decision that poverty should not be a barrier to good health, and acts in cooperation to put in place robust measures to reverse neglect, the world quickly sees the balance shift, and many thousands of lives are saved. International Snakebite Awareness Day will hopefully catalyze that change!

What can be done?

The first International Snakebite Conference, held earlier this year, brought together so many amazing people working to solve snakebite issues around the world and clearly demonstrated the tremendous scale of the global snakebite crisis. What we learned is that it will take a monumental effort to get appropriate medical care to the communities who need it the most. Whether it’s because of cost, distance or lack of trust in western medicine, rural communities in the global majority simply do not currently receive the proper medical care after a snakebite. To make matters even worse, it will take years to implement the necessary steps that will bring medical care to these communities, who desperately need it today!

Until that day comes, prevention is the first step in stopping this snakebite crisis. Save The Snakes is going to work harder, smarter and even more determined than ever to continue our work to mitigate human-snake conflict. Far too often we receive emails from individuals from around the world who request support so that they can address the issue of snakebite or snake conservation in their communities. By empowering and supporting snake conservationists to mitigate human-snake conflict, our organization’s unique, community-based approach to snake conservation can reduce snakebite in the communities that need it most. After this conference, Save The Snakes moves forward, better prepared, to continue with our own efforts and we are truly driven and inspired!

What can you do?

Thank you for joining us in our mission to protect threatened snake populations, create snakebite awareness and mitigate human-snake conflict.

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