UK university academic is lending expertise to cut India’s snakebite deaths

With 50,000 deaths per year from snakebites, India has the world's highest burden

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 30 November 2023
Photo: iStock

An academic from a United Kingdom university is using her expertise to help India reduce the number of fatalities from snakebites. India has the biggest burden of deaths due to snakebites in the world, with most of the cases in rural India. 

Nibedita Ray-Bennett, associate professor in risk management and founder of Avoidable Deaths Network (ADN) at the University of Leicester, along with other ADN experts  have set up a hub in an Odisha village to look into lifesaving solutions, according to a press note from the university. ADN is a global membership network working on avoiding human deaths from natural hazards. 

Acording to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 81,410 to 137,880 people around the world die each year because of snakebites. With more than 50,000 people dying from snakebites each year, India is the global capital of snakebite deaths. WHO formally listed snakebite envenoming as a highest-priority neglected tropical disease in June 2017.

Read more: Right anti-venom, given on time, can reduce snakebite deaths in India

In 2015, India ratified the WHO’s Snakebite Envenoming Strategy for Prevention and Control through the National Action Plan, along with the United Nations’ Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction for halving the number of deaths by 2030.

Ray-Bennett is lending her expertise to help move forward towards the 2030 deadline. Ray-Bennett and other experts from the ADN have set up a pilot study in Burujhari village in Odisha.

The ADN experts have established a hub for the local community in Burujhari to find lifesaving solutions through research and collaboration. The researchers will look into solutions like an early warning system for snakes much like the weather forecast in the monsoon season using the latest GPS/remote sensing tools.

Read more: Odisha carries a huge burden of snakebite deaths — but it is avoidable

The experts will also look into options such as positioning motorcycles and ambulances to transport snakebite victims to the nearest hospital and developing a risk governance infrastructure so that these interventions can be delivered effectively and reduce the number of avoidable snakebite deaths.

While the WHO’s ambitions to halve annual snakebite deaths are laudable, the target is somewhat ambitious, Ray-Bennett said in the statement. “The sheer scale of the problem and the time and resources needed to roll out an effective solution mean there aren’t any overnight fixes. Thanks to the work of ADN, we now have the knowledge and potential solutions to move in the right direction to reduce deaths that are avoidable, but it will take time to roll out our interventions to all affected rural areas,” she said.

Born and raised in a village in North Bengal, Ray-Bennett highlighted how snakebite deaths are a rural phenomenon. “We have the know-how and technology to save lives. Therefore, we should do all we can to stop deaths and disabilities from snake bites for the greater good of society,” she added.

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