In Summary
  • Kemsa continues to spend millions of shillings on the bogus imports even as data from Kenya Wildlife Service indicate that between 2014 and 2018, 494 people died from human wildlife conflicts, out of that 333 died from snake bites.

  • And for those losing their relatives to snake bites, it is now a double loss after MPs removed attacks from the reptiles from list of human-wildlife conflicts that can be compensated by KWS.

  • In 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed snakebite as a neglected tropical disease.

If a Kenyan is bitten by a snake, their chances of death are high, the Nation can reveal.

This is because the East African country still lacks correct anti-venom drugs at a time when snakebites are a leading cause of deaths from human-animal conflicts.

Kenya does not manufacture anti-venom drugs even as 1,000 people die every year from venomous snakebites.

The little venom produced in the country is exported to South Africa for manufacture of anti-venom drugs.

And it emerges that the South African drugs are not sold in Kenya because they are yet to be registered.

INEFFECTIVE ANTI-VENOM

But what is more worrying is the fact that victims of snakebites have to rely on anti-venom drugs imported mostly from India, and which have been found to be ineffective.

Already, health officials in Lamu and Taita Taveta have reported their displeasure with the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa), which continues to procure the Indian drugs.

Kemsa continues to spend millions of shillings on the bogus imports even as data from Kenya Wildlife Service indicate that between 2014 and 2018, 494 people died from human wildlife conflicts, out of that 333 died from snake bites.

Although the figure looks low, snakebite remains neglected, and probably many deaths are not reported, said a conservationist Paula Kahumbu said in an interview.

The WildlifeDirect CEO wants venomous snake bites given the same status as rabies, a notifiable disease— a disease that requires investigations and follow-ups for proper response.

“This would allow the government to collect data on incidents so as to stock the correct anti-venom in the hotspots,” she said.

“People are dying because of lack of anti-venom, lack of education and lack of trained people to administer the drugs.”

DOUBLE LOSS

The places where snakebites are prevalent are very remote and the Indian drugs hardly reach there.

These include Kilifi, Baringo, Kitui, Wajir, Garissa, Machakos, Marsabit, Isiolo, Makueni, Taita Taveta and Tharaka-Nithi.

And for those losing their relatives to snake bites, it is now a double loss after MPs removed attacks from the reptiles from list of human-wildlife conflicts that can be compensated by KWS.

In its push for changes to the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, KWS noted that compensation claims for poisonous snakebites accounted for 81 percent of all human wildlife conflict claims under the old Act.

“The compensation was too huge, the government is still paying for Sh31 billion to victims of snakebites,” said Dr Kahumbu.

The conservationist believes most of the snake bites can be prevented if Kenyans in arid and semi-arid areas were enlightened.

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