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Snakebite Healing & Education Society (SHE)

Snakebite Healing & Education Society (SHE)

Priyanka Kadam explains the serious issue of snakebites in India and how her organisation SHE is working to address the problem. 

Photo Courtesy: Priyanka Kadam.

Snakebite Healing & Education Society (SHE) was founded in 2014 with an intention to work towards eliminating the suffering of India’s snakebite victims 95 per cent of whom are  from poor agrarian backgrounds. SHE is a self-funded initiative and works with various organizations across six states namely Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka.

In India, snakebite is a complex issue at different levels like health care and medical infrastructure, appropriate training to the rural health care personnel to handle snakebite cases, assistance to bite victims suffering from severe necrosis and tissue damage and requiring corrective surgery and lastly government’s state level health schemes and compensation provisions that get grossly misused or under-utilized at the ground level.The snakebite mortality survey (Mohapatra 2011) estimated a whopping 45,900 deaths annually due to snakebites in India. The actual mortality rate could be far greater than the estimated figure from the survey because it is practically impossible to accurately determine the number of people who were bitten by venomous snakes and died without or during treatment. There is another facet to this issue – there is a much higher number of people who are saved after being bitten by a venomous snake but suffer permanent morbidity due to amputation or deformity of the affected area. The extent of malaise due to a venomous snakebite in India is staggering.

The impact of the problem is more evident and severe in the rural parts of India, where farm labourers come in contact with snakes and medical facilities are limited. Local hospitals, clinics and health care centers find anti-snake venom (ASV) difficult to procure. Limited supply of ASV adds to the demand and the drug is sold by touts at an inflated price. Other significant challenges include lack of specialized training and community outreach programs to educate the population on how to avoid a snakebite in the first place.

Photo Courtesy: Priyanka Kadam.

In 2009, WHO (World Health Organization) added snakebite to the list of “Neglected Tropical Diseases.”  And yet snakebites have not become a health priority for India. This is a highly neglected area in basic health care across the country. SHE aims at understanding and addressing grass root level victim issues.

To do this, SHE has brought together people in various capacities on a common platform. Snakebite expert doctors, human rights activists, scientists, herpetologists, writers, lawyers, NGO partners, retired bureaucrats and administrators all form a part of the advisory board to help spur this issue into a movement with a unified voice.

Photo Courtesy: Priyanka Kadam.

SHE is currently working with NGO partners Nisarga Vidnyan Sanstha, Simultala Conservationists, WARCO, Emmanuel Hospital Association and Into the Wild in rolling out snake and snakebite awareness programs at the Gram Panchayat level and also various communities across India. Our aim is to cover the length and breadth of the country in the next three years and bring down snakebite mortalities to a governable level.

Author: Priyanka Kadam.

 
 
 

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