Speaker: Roy Scourse
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams treat several thousand snakebite victims annually and witness the devastating impact of snakebite envenoming on victims, their families and communities. Worldwide, snakebite envenoming kills an estimated 100,000 people each year, making it one of the deadliest neglected tropical diseases.
MSF welcomes the Director-General’s report on Global Snakebite Burden and the work underway to pass a resolution on snakebite at the World Health Assembly this May. The resolution should give WHO a strong mandate to mobilise Member States and donors to respond to this public health crisis with the urgency and attention it demands.
MSF urges the WHO, Member States and donors to take six key actions to reduce suffering, disability and death from this preventable disease.
- Intensify work to control the quality of antivenoms and allocate adequate, sustainable funding for the WHO Prequalification Programme. Prequalification is critical to reducing the use of substandard antivenoms, and ensuring that new, safe and effective antivenoms enter the market.
- Work swiftly to develop an international financing mechanism that subsidises procurement and supply of antivenoms to make them available free-of-charge for victims, or at a price all can afford. A person’s inability to pay for quality snakebite treatment should not have deadly and disabling consequences.
- Prioritise the promising research and development (R&D) agenda for snakebite. Coordinated international support is needed to ensure lifesaving treatments and diagnostics emerge from the pipeline.
- Incorporate specific courses on snakebite management and prevention in the medical curricula in high burden countries, and increase investment in community awareness and prevention.
- Implement epidemiological studies to explore the true incidence and distribution of snakebite. We need better data to estimate burden and to deliver the right treatments.
- Support the resource mobilisation plan of the forthcoming WHO Roadmap. Scale-up of effective interventions will require increased funding from donor agencies and Ministries of Health.