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