Kampala. Snakebite victims in various parts of the country are at risk of dying due to lack of anti-venom drugs in health facilities.
This was revealed on Wednesday during the release of a new study conducted between 2017 and 2018 titled: Neglected Tropical Diseases programme.
The study by Makerere University School of Public Health (MSPH) shows most health facilities across the country lack anti-venom drugs to treat snakebites.
The study also revealed that men are at the greatest risk of being bitten by snakes.
“All districts in Uganda report snake bites although most cases are reported to lower health facilities and yet National Drug Authority stocks the anti-venom drugs only at the hospital levels of health centre IVs,” Ms Suzan Kizito, the lead researcher, said in Kampala.
“Snakebites should be included in the master plan of neglected tropical diseases because it was deserted until June 2017 by World Health Organisation,” she said.
Ms Kizito added that there is still a need to educate the public about anti-venom use because the first aid they have to give when someone is bitten by a snake is diverse and the community member may not know which is appropriate for use.
Dr Patrick Tusiime, the Commissioner National Disease Control from the Ministry of Health, said they have not neglected the problem but the government does not have adequate stock of the drugs at all health facilities.
“Partly what causes the shortage is budgetary constraints, the anti-venom drugs are very expensive and when you look at the budget for the health sector, the needs are so many,” Dr Tumusiime said.
However, Dr John Kamulegeya, a fellow at MSPH, said despite budgetary constraints, government should prioritise some of these tropical diseases even though they are rarely reported to health facilities.
Cases of snakebite
In Uganda, a snakebite research carried out by Health Action International (HAI), a global health non-governmental orgnisation, in partnership with the Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS-Uganda), showed a total of 593 snakebite cases in more than 144 health facilities were reported in six months.
The research that was carried out between October 2017 and March 2018 also indicated that 92 per cent of the healthcare workers have not received any training in treating snakebites, while only 4 per cent of the facilities stock anti-venom drugs.
However, the total number of snakebite cases, as well as deaths recorded in Uganda on an annual basis, remains unknown as no research has been conducted and 70 per cent is estimated to go unreported.