International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has welcomed the release of the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy on the prevention and control of snakebite envenoming.
The strategy aims to halve the number of snakebite deaths and cases of disability by 2030.
Central objectives include increasing education on snakebites, partnering with affected communities and relevant stakeholders, and ensuring access to safe, effective and affordable treatment. Improved production, supply and distribution of lifesaving anti-venoms and other treatment commodities will be prioritised.
The strategy will be rolled out in three phases, starting with a pilot phase in 10-12 high-burden countries.
The WHO is also encouraging research on new treatments, diagnostics and other breakthroughs to improve outcomes and hasten recovery.
“Governments and funding organisations must step up now and respond to snakebite with the urgency and attention this neglected public health crisis demands,” said MSF.
Every year, an estimated 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes, up to 2.7 million of whom are envenomed, resulting in death for 81,000-138,000 people and life-long disfigurement and disability for 400,000 more.
Snakebite envenoming predominantly afflicts the rural poor, including migrant workers, farmers and displaced people fleeing conflict, and kills more people than any other disease on WHO’s neglected tropical diseases list.