Nigeria looking for local remedies to curtail 15,000 snakebites yearly

NIGERIA is looking into traditional medicine to manage cases of snakebite even as it records between 10,000 and 15,000 cases of snakebite yearly, resulting in 200 to 300 deaths and 2,000 amputations of limbs.

Deputy Director, Department of Public health, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr Fatai Oyediran stated this off the side of a media dialogue on Neglected Tropical Diseases Control in Nigeria, organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Mr Oyediran stated that snake bite was an emergency situation and a local solution for snake bite will ensure its treatment is more easily available, accessible and affordable, especially in the rural communities where its incidence is higher.

Oyediran said the Federal Ministry of Health had received different snake bite remedies to be tested in collaboration with NAFDAC, NIPR and NIMR and followed up by clinical trials to ascertain their effectiveness.

He added, “it is something that we have determined to do because it will be easier than the local production of antivenom. As we are pursuing the local production of antivenom, we are also pursuing the traditional treatment for snakebite.”

Mr Oyediran stated that there are three main species of poisonous snakes in Nigeria and incidence of snakebite peaks in the wet season when the soil is waterlogged and the dry season or harvesting season when the atmospheric temperature is too hot.

He said that practices such as bush burning, flooding and deforestation drive snakes to living environment, even as they are attracted to hunt rat and mice in homes where there are remnants of food and food items uncovered.

“In most rural areas, people go out very early in the morning into the bush to defecate and may be beaten by a snake,”he added.

He said that trying to suck venom from the site of the snake bite, incisions and application of torque and black stone when bitten by a snake are not advisable as first aid treatment for snake bites.

“If somebody is bitten, the first aid that we promote is immobilise the patients to prevent the circulation of the poison, reassure the patient often and quickly get him to the nearest hospital for medical attention.”

Mr Oyediran, however, ruled lack of funding and non-local production of antivenom in Nigeria.

According to him, “fund allocated in the last two years has dropped. The highest we have had so far is N131 million and by projection, N500 million is required to buy enough anti-venom to treat victims. So we need more funding to be able to do more.”

—Sade Oguntola

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