Gov’t urged to support snakebite victims

Accra, May 23, GNA - Government has been urged to consider a special scheme to support snakebite victims to help them cope with disabilities and the loss of family members.

“Snakebite envenoming (poisoning) is a disease of the poor, and recognised as one of the biggest hidden and neglected health crisis today with impoverished populations in rural areas facing the highest risk of mortality,” Mr Muntaka Chasant, an Environmentalist, has said.

“Lethal snake envenomation can leave survivors with life-changing injuries. In Addition to the impact on health, snakebite contributes to social and economic burden, including physical disabilities, social stigma and loss of livelihoods,” he said.

Mr Chasant, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, in Accra, said snakebite envenoming was a Category ‘A’ Neglected Tropical Disease affecting mainly Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with rural households, children, and agricultural workers being the most vulnerable.

“Rural farmers who rely on subsistent agriculture suffer snakebite as a daily occupational hazard. These are often the poorest of the poor, and when they lose their limbs to a venomous viper bite, their entire family suffer. These survivors need help,” he appealed.

Mr Chasant, who does documentaries on victims, said the Kenyan Government, for instance, had made it a policy to support snakebite survivors to help them cope with disabilities and loss of loved ones, adding that: “This is something Ghana can look into to minimise the socio-economic burden on survivors.”

Discussing some of the challenges surrounding snakebite envenoming, he said: “Snakebite in Ghana is poorly characterised due to under-reporting.”

“Healthcare, transport and access to effective and affordable antivenom are some of the issues affecting snakebite outcomes.”

“High treatment cost tend to push poor people further into poverty. Prioritising snakebite envenoming as a public health crisis and ensuring access to affordable and effective treatment could help to reduce deaths and disabilities every year.”

According to the World Health Organization Report, snakebite envenoming causes between 81,000 and 138,000 deaths, and responsible for as many as 400,000 amputations and other permanent disabilities every year.

Snake species of medical importance in Ghana include puff adder, western green mamba, black-necked spitting cobra and the Senegalese cobra.