NEW YORK/GENEVA, May 24, 2018—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) made the following statement after the adoption of a resolution on “Addressing the burden of snakebite envenoming” during the 71st World Health Assembly today. This resolution—adopted by 194 countries—is expected to provide a strong mandate for the World Health Organization to implement an ambitious snakebite “roadmap,” mobilizing governments and donors to respond to snakebite with the urgency and attention this neglected public health crisis demands.
MSF witnesses the devastating impact that snakebites have on victims, their families, and communities all over the world. Globally, snakebite envenoming kills an estimated 100,000 people every year, making it one of the deadliest neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). In 2017, more than 3,000 patients were admitted to MSF clinics for snakebite treatment, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
“Too many people die or become disabled because they were unfortunate enough to have been bitten by a snake and don’t have access to effective and affordable treatment.
“We are encouraged to see that governments are finally getting serious about tackling snakebite. It’s a major killer that has remained one of the world’s most neglected public health emergencies for far too long. Passing a resolution means that snakebite will now be on both national and international health agendas, but governments now need to make concrete commitments.
“This resolution kick-starts an ambitious snakebite ‘roadmap.’ We want to see this roadmap lead to a reduction in snakebite-induced death and disability. To make the WHO snakebite roadmap a success, governments and donors need to pledge enough funds to scale up effective interventions, particularly technical assistance for countries to roll out the roadmap, the procurement and supply of affordable, quality-assured anti-venom products, and a dramatic reduction of out-of-pocket costs for snakebite victims, for whom access is a matter of life or death.”
—Julien Potet, NTD and vaccines policy advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign