Save The Snakes has partnered with Helping Hands in Snake Safety to mitigate human-snake conflict in Zambia.
Helping Hands in Snake Safety (HHiSS) is a not-for-profit NGO, set up as an initiative to increase snake safety, meaning reducing the number of snakebites as well as reducing the number of snakes being killed in Zambia. Zambia is home to some of the deadliest snakes in Africa. Infamous snakes such as the black mamba, the puff adder and spitting cobras are common, especially in poorer, rural areas. In these areas people encounter snakes often, which leads to dangerous situations. As most Zambians have little knowledge of snakes, encounters often lead to killing any snake. This is regrettable, because 71 of the 99 snake species in Zambia are in fact harmless to human beings and snakes are crucial for pest control. In addition, they are an important part of Zambia’s ecosystems. Many people are bitten by snakes and sometimes this occurs when they try to kill a snake they have encountered. Unfortunately, the exact number of snakebites is unknown. Not all cases that are treated at the many clinics in the country are registered or even recognized as snakebites. Often victims do not reach a health facility or decided to go to the traditional healer instead. The WHO estimates that 70% of snakebite cases are not reported. If the 70% rule is applied to the data available at the Zambian Ministry of Health, the average total of snakebites in Zambia per year is 77,665 bites and 118 deaths per year. However, the number of deaths is likely much higher, as most of those not seeking medical treatment are probably pass on. A bite from a highly venomous snake usually leads to death, as most health facilities aren’t able to effectively treat snakebites. Health care workers, including doctors, aren’t trained in snakebite treatment, medication and equipment is not available and neither is antivenom. This leads to many people losing lives, losing digits or limbs or surviving with chronic neurological disorders, even if they do visit a clinic. Survivors of serious snakebites in Zambia are often no longer able to work and thus lost as income earners to their family. This makes snakebites also a social-economic problem. The current COVID-19 Pandemic has halted the limited progress on improving snakebite treatment, as funds have been diverted to address the pandemic. HHiSS has set itself the goal to significantly reduce the number of snakes being killed, as well as reduce the number of snakebite victims. They focus on avoiding snakes from being killed and avoiding snakebites from happening. To achieve this, HHiSS seeks to increase people’s knowledge about snakes and snakebites, focusing on snake safety. They do this by conducting sensitization programs in communities, especially to farmers, to children and in women’s groups. HHiSS also conduct training courses in safe snake handling, thus providing an alternative to killing snakes (which often leads to serious snakebites) and in first aid in snakebites. In addition, HHiSS gave lectures at the University of Zambia on first aid in snakebite management. They also develop and publish brochures and posters on their website (www.hhiss.com) which help in identifying snakes and contain advise on various snake-safety topics. Further, they coordinate an ever-growing network of trained snake removers who have saved many snake’s lives (and in the process, keep people safe as well). Finally, HHiSS regularly appears on radio shows and on TV.
For more information, please visit Helping Hands in Snake Safety’s website: www.hhiss.com or contact them an email via email@example.com.