Snakebite Treatment Photograph by Lindsey Mackenzie
Spotlight |

Spotlight on: Snakebite

Photograph by Lindsey Mackenzie
Snakebite Treatment Photograph by Lindsey Mackenzie

"Imagine how frightening it must be to be bitten by a snake – to feel the pain and venom spread through your body – knowing it may kill you and there is no treatment available, or that you can’t afford to pay for it."

Dr Gabriel Alcoba
Dr Gabriel Alcoba
Tropical Medicine Advisor

This is the real-life nightmare for 100,000+ people killed by snakebite every year and 400,000 more that are left with life-changing disabilities. Snakebite envenoming is overwhelmingly an affliction of the rural poor in agricultural and herding communities and kills more people than any other disease on the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) list of the World Health Organization (WHO).

MSF witnesses the devastating impact of snakebites on victims, their families and communities in many of the places we work. In 2017, more than 3,000 patients were admitted to MSF-supported hospitals for snakebite treatment, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East.

However, the vast majority of snakebite victims are unable to access affordable and effective treatment.

An ambitious, multifaceted approach is urgently needed to tackle this neglected health crisis. We work with governments, treatment providers, donors and communities affected by snakebite, amongst many others, to try to bring about real change for snakebite victims everywhere. We are calling for:

  • Access to affordable, good quality antivenom to be urgently scaled up.

  • Increased resources from governments and donors to tackle snakebite, including for new tools such as new generation antivenoms.

  • Better data on the true incidence and distribution of snakebite in order to deliver the right treatments in the right places.

  • Improved training of healthcare professionals and increased investment for community awareness of snakebite first aid and prevention.

Therefore, we welcome the release of the long-anticipated World Health Organization (WHO) strategy on the prevention and control of snakebite envenoming, with the ambitious targets to cut in half the number of snakebite deaths and cases of disability by 2030. Governments and funding organisations must step up now and respond to snakebite with the urgency and attention this neglected public health crisis demands.

To find out more, check out our latest press release on the WHO strategy, our snakebite factsheet and our other snakebite resources.

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