MUMBAI – India accounts for about half of all global snakebite deaths and clocks the highest number of snakebite deaths compared to other countries facing this issue.
“Along with approximately 50,000 annual human deaths from snakebites, five times that number of people suffer snakebite related morbidity that leads to life-changing situations such as permanent disability, loss of livelihood, financial stress, bonded labour and disruption of children’s education,” PriyankaKadam, Founder of Snakebite Healing & Education Society ( She-India.org),” told this news service.
One of its kind, Snakebite Healing & Education Society is the country’s first social initiative working only for the cause of snakebite management & mitigation, Kadam claims.
The society works on strategic projects with grass root level local partners that impact thousands of individuals at risk of getting bitten.
Kadam started her work from Chhattisgarh and subsequently spread her work in Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Assam through local partners. The not-for-profit organisation is working with ground level NGOs in various states.
The motivation for such an initiative was the “human misery, destitution and lack of human dignity (in death),” Kadam said.
Snakebite deaths and related disability is a socio-economic issue which leaves footprints not only in the life of the victim but the entire family, Kadam said.
“Having more than 300 species of snakes in India, only 15 species of terrestrial snakes are medically significant and out of these 15 species of venomous snakes, the big four namely the Spectacled Cobra (Najanaja), the Common Krait (Bungaruscaerulus), the Saw-Scaled viper (Echiscarinatus) and Russell’s viper (Daboiarusselii) are commonly found and are responsible for maximum fatalities,” Kadam added.
The social entrepreneur who is also an activist has been actively working on snakebite issues in India. She said there is absence of accurate data related to snakebite deaths & related disabilities.
Most of the deaths as a result of snakebite are due to faith-healing, she said. “Since the victims are not admitted to (the) hospitals, the data in such cases is lost,” Kadam told this news service.
Kadam has done extensive fieldwork and organised more than 350 community awareness workshops in villages, towns, panchayats, educational institutions, hospitals and government agencies in the past seven years.
To spread awareness about the magnitude of the situation, Kadam has also been documenting stories of snakebite victims. Kadam has built a platform which brings together field experts including doctors, lawyers, social activists, herpetologists, researchers, administrators and teachers to fight this social evil.
In 2015, Dr DayalBandhuMajumdar, snakebite expert doctor from West Bengal started a WhatsApp group of junior and senior doctors in Urban, Semi-urban and rural areas to manage complex snakebite situations. Priyanka curates this group and has added experts from many states across India. At present, the group has approx. 240 doctors from 14 states across India and one from Nepal.Together this group has helped save hundreds of lives in the last 5 years.
Kadam was also a part of World Health Organisation’s (WHO), Global Snakebite Envenoming Working Group.This group has created the Strategy Roadmap to bring down the snakebite deaths by 50% by 2030. The WHO Strategy was released in May, 2019.