WHO lists them as a ne­glected dis­ease

WHO now recog­nises snakebite as a ne­glected dis­ease. But In­dia, which has the high­est num­ber of snakebite deaths, is woe­fully ill-pre­pared in tack­ling the prob­lem |


ON JUNE 9, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (who) in­cluded snakebite into the list of “Ne­glected Tropical Dis­eases” (ntds) —a di­verse group of tropical in­fec­tions af­fect­ing poor com­mu­ni­ties in Africa, Asia and the Amer­i­cas. Ac­tivists hope the de­ci­sion will bring at­ten­tion to snakebite, so far ne­glected by pharma firms and pol­icy mak­ers. “This is an op­por­tu­nity to fi­nally get se­ri­ous about tack­ling snakebite,” says Julien Potet, pol­icy ad­vi­sor on ntds for Médecins Sans Fron­tières’s Ac­cess Cam­paign.

The de­ci­sion is the cul­mi­na­tion of an eight-year-long process. who es­ti­mates that snakebites kill 100,000 peo­ple every year glob­ally. But in stark con­trast to “big” dis­eases like hiv/aids, di­a­betes and cancer, it has never re­ceived bet­ter treat­ment and re­search fund­ing. Bri­tish med­i­cal jour­nal, The Lancet noted in a July editorial that who had tried to rec­tify this by in­clud­ing snakebite in its 2009 ntd list. How­ever, it was ex­cluded later with­out any rea­son.

In the last week of March this year, at the 10th Meet­ing of the who Strate­gic and Tech­ni­cal Ad­vi­sory Group for Ne­glected Tropical Dis­eases held in Geneva, of­fi­cials noted that not only death, snakebite also caused se­ri­ous in­jury, namely necro­sis or tis­sue death due to en­ven­om­ing, the in­jec­tion of venom into the blood stream. Both deaths and in­juries like limb am­pu­ta­tion fol­low­ing necro­sis over­whelm­ingly af­fected agri­cul­tural work­ers, who are among the world’s poor­est peo­ple. The ex­perts rec­om­mended snakebite’s in­clu­sion into the ntd list again to aid its preven­tion.

The de­ci­sion will im­pact In­dia as it ac­counts for half the global deaths due to snakebites as per who es­ti­mates. “It will build pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to con-

Chen­nai-based Irula Snake Catch­ers' In­dus­trial Co­op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety is the only or­gan­i­sa­tion that ex­tracts venom from snakes like this Indian or Spec­ta­cled Co­bra

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