Feature story |

Snakebite testimonials - in Agok, South Sudan

Fanny Hostettler
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An MSF nurse changes the dressing of Aluk Manut, aged six. She was bitten by a snake on her right leg. Aluk and her mother, Photograph by Fanny Hostettler

Aluk Manut 6 years, mother Teresa Aluoc Majok (interviewee)

From Gogrial (150 kms from Agok)

My daughter was sitting and playing on the ground outside our house as it was getting dark when a snake came and bit her in the foot. I then killed the snake with a stick.

I don’t know what kind it was but it was brown. We could see the two fang marks on her foot, she was bleeding from the wound and her legged started swelling up to the hip.

She was in a lot of pain and was crying a lot. We gave her alcohol for the pain. There is no hospital in Gogrial where we can get treated for this, but others in the community informed us we could go to Agok.

It took us one night to get here. At the hospital my daughter got antivenom and she was operated in her leg.

I left another of my children at home to come here with my daughter and my baby. We have been here for twenty days now. There are many snakes where we live and many people were bitten this year.

 

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Arop Magut, 49, is from Abathok. He was bitten on the leg by a snake while harvesting sorghum in the flooded fields. Photograph by Fanny Hostettler

Arop Magut, man, 49 years

From Abathok

I was out harvesting surgum. The fields were flooded with water from the recent rains and when I was busy cutting, I felt pain in my leg, it was a snake in the water but I didn’t see it. It was starting ti hurt a lot, so I went home.

I slept, I had fever and took paracetamol. The fever went down but the pain continued. I was worried because the leg continued swelling and I was afraid I would die. It was very painful and I couldn’t move.

My house is far away from the others and I cannot go and ask for help. After four days, mother went to ask the neighbours for help and they came and carried me on my bed to the road.  Then I went on a vehicle to get to the hospital in Agok. It took about two and a half hours.

I have had five operations already and they say I will have more.  There are many snakes where I live and there are many cases of snakebite.

 

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Nyandeng Goch, 60, is from Wungdeng, four hours from Agok hospital. She was bitten on the foot by a Puff Adder snake during the night. She didn’t kill it because the tradition says their ancestors live within the snakes. Photograph by Fanny Hostettler

Nyandeng Goch, 60 years

From Wungdeng, 4 hours from Agok

Last night I was sleeping and woke up as I heard the goats crying.

It was around midnight, I went to see why they were crying and when I opened the gate, I was bitten by a snake. It was a puff adder. I didn’t want to kill it, because the tradition says it is our ancestors inside. If we kill it, I will die.

So we just moved the snake outside the goat pen by using a stick. My foot was bleeding from the fang marks and I was in pain. We dug a hole in the ground and I put my foot inside and stayed there for two hours. We are told this will help. After two hours, I decided to go to the hospital. I walked with a stick, we started at 4am and arrived as the sun rose (6.30am).  

I didn’t have a choice, but to walk. We have no means of transportation. During the rainy season, many snakes come into the house. A cobra used to come around the house and I killed it the day before I was bitten.

 

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Nyanut Magok, 27, is showing where she was bitten by a snake on her foot. She’s from Rumkor, two hours by foot from Agok. She was collecting firewood in the bush when she was bitten. Photograph by Fanny Hostettler

Nyanut Mangok, 27 years, mother of five

From Rumkor village, two hours by foot from Agok

I was collecting firewood in the bush when I felt pain and fell down.

I didn’t see the snake as the grass was tall up to my chest.

I lost conscience, and the people I was with carried me back home. It took four hours to reach the village and was unconscious for a long time and I woke up when they were carrying me. I was bleeding and my foot was swelling a lot.

From our village, we went by vehicle to the hospital in Agok. They kept me at the hospital one night and then I went home.

After some time at home, the swelling kept increasing so I went back to the hospital where I got more medication. Since then I have felt better, but when it is cold outside, I feel itching where the bite was. We have many snakes around the house, one of my neighbours was also bitten and she came to the hospital for care. 

 

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Alitt, 50, was bitten by a snake while she was working in the fields. She walked home despite the pain and tried some traditional methods to draw the poison out. Photograph by Fanny Hostettler

Alitt Kur Agoth, 50 years

From Mading, 5 hours from Agok

I was working in the fields when I was bitten by a snake. I didn’t see it because the grass was high. I had a lot of pain but walked back to the house for one hour.

Then we cut the place where the snake bite was with razor blade and put black stone to get the poison out.

I drank a potion made of crushed seeds to vomit out the poison, it didn’t work so I also tried to eat raw egg to vomit. Then we decided to go to hospital. It took five hours to get there.

 

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Arnal Lual, 13, and her brother-in- law, Paulino Deng, are from Majbong. Arnal was bitten on the leg when she stepped on a Puff Adder while playing outside her neighbour’s house in the evening. Photograph by Fanny Hostettler

Arnal Lual, 13 years

Care taker (brother in law) Paulino Deng
From Majbong

My young sister-in-law was playing outside the neighbor’s house in the evening and she stepped on a snake in the dark.

It was a puff adder and it bit her and then ran away. Two people helped carry her home and then we went to the military barracks where they took us on a vehicle to go to the hospital. But the vehicle got stuck in the mud on the road for an hour and a half. She was bleeding and crying a lot and her leg was very swollen.

After that, it took another two hours to get to the hospital. Where we live there are many snakes. Some come inside the houses because there is a lot of water.

Awien Maguor, ten years. Caretaker (uncle) Athian Akol Madut, 39 and sister, Ayen Maguor, 15 years

From Agache, 3 hours by foot

My niece was bitten by a snake in her arm at night while she was sleeping. We treated her like the members in the community told us to, we got a wild frog and cut it in two and put it on the wound to stop the poison from spreading.

We gave her raw egg to make her vomit, but it didn’t work so we also made her a potion made of ground seeds and leaves. She didn’t vomit. She didn’t improve and the swelling continued so we decided to go to the hospital. She was dizzy and couldn’t walk, so I ran, carrying her on my back.

When I got tired, I had to put her down on the side of the road to rest, she is heavy because she is not a young child. It took five hours to get to the hospital.  

There the doctor asked why it took us so long to get there and I explained we live far away and have no one to help. They gave her antivenom and marked her body with a pen where the swelling was. It continued swelling up to the chest. The doctor proposed to operate her and I signed a paper to give my consent. Thanks to this operation, she is now still alive. She was unconscious the first five days at the hospital and then she woke up. The doctors didn’t give up, she has had many operations. I even went with them inside the operating theatre several times to see the wounds and I agreed that they continue operating her. She would be dead if she was not here.