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SNAKE BITES: GLOBAL CONCERN, SCANDAL IN KENYA

15 people die each day from snake bites in Kenya

VENOMOUS SNAKE BITES A MAJOR HEALTH ISSUE

Worldwide 79,000 people die from venomous snakebites each year (based on 2016 figures) and some 400,000 are permanently disabled as a result of blindness or amputation. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) mosquitoes are the only animal that cause more deaths to humans.

These facts have gone largely unreported before but now the WHO have publicly recognised snakebites as a health issue of global concern with the aim of directing research and resources to tackle the 2.7 million snake poisonings that occur worldwide each year.

SNAKE BITE DEATHS IN KENYA

In Kenya up to 15 people die each day and 100 people a month have a limb amputated after being bitten venomous snakes.

Many Kenyans die on a daily basis because they cannot get to a clinic that stores the anti-venom in time to be saved after receiving a poisonous bite.

Worse still, some people arrive at a clinic in time to be saved only to find that it has run out of anti-venom.

ANTI-VENOM NOT EFFECTIVE IN KENYA

If that were not scandalous enough, much of the anti-venom that is available in Kenya has been found to be ineffective against the type of poisonous snakes found in the country.

In 2017 a study by the Snake Bite Research & Intervention Centre revealed that none of the six anti-venoms stored in Kenya is effective against the bite of all the poisonous snakes found in East Africa.

One allegation doing the rounds is that snakebite anti-venom used in Kenya was bought from India to save money. It was perhaps effective against snakes found in India but not so for poisonous snakes in Kenya.

KENYA TO END COMPENSATION FOR SNAKE BITES?

So what is Kenya doing about the problem? Abolishing compensation for injuries or death called by snake bite.

If passed, an amendment to the Wildlife Act would restrict the payment of compensation as a result of death or injury caused by elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hippos, hyenas, crocodiles, buffaloes and rhinos – not as a result of snake bite.

Perhaps it is logical to withhold payment of compensation for an act of Nature, accidents happen, but then the same logic would in many instances apply to injury or death caused by a lion or a buffalo, for example.

If death or injury, however, is in effect caused by the lack of, or inadequacy of, anti-venoms in the country, that it is not an act of Nature, it is a failure of public policy and Kenya’s dire health system, and compensation should be paid.

In the meantime, the national government and county governments should be actively addressing the failure of the country’s health system that results in so much death and disability from snake bites in Kenya.

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