By Henry Mugenyi & Beatrice Nyangoma
Although it is an ever present danger in both urban and rural communities, there is little or no information on snake bites prevention or management in Uganda.
Juma Oundo is yet to recover from the loss of his daughter to a snake bite that occurred as she returned from a nearby centre in Busia district.
Oundo, who is a cook at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe, did not just lose his daughter but has also suffered from snake bite. He lost several fingers after he was bitten by a serpent.
In May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) added snakebite envenoming as a neglected tropical disease that affects over 2.7 million people each year, claiming over 138, 000 lives and causing 400 000 cases of permanent disability globally.
Research has been conducted to ascertain how prepared health centres are to deal with snake bite cases. The investigation in 144 health centres found that only 4 percent of them are equipped with anti-venom. The research by the Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development- HEPS Uganda.
It was carried out between October 2018 and March 2020. It is entitled Snakebite incidents, response and ant venom supply in Uganda.
This research, the first of its kind in Uganda, also showed that health workers in the health facilities lacked knowledge on snakebite treatment and management.
The most sighted poisonous snakes in Uganda include puff adders, Gabon vipers, forest cobras, black mambas among others.
The Assistant Commissioner Vector Borne and Non Transmitted Diseases at the Ministry of Health Dr. Alfred Musinguzi told NBS that the country faces a challenge in management of snakebite victims.
He said, “It is not clear how much Uganda spends on the importation of anti venoms because it’s not on the list of essential drugs.”
According to experts, it will be easier for the country to set up an anti venom manufacturing plants. These will milk venom from local snakes as opposed to importing anti venom from South Africa and India. They believe, if Uganda produced her anti venom from the local snakes, treatment will be cheaper and more accessible.
With raising cases in snakes bites all over the country there’s need to educate communities in first-aid and prevention of snakebites.