International Snakebite Awareness Day Launch

The Australian Venom Research Unit is a proud launch partner of International Snakebite Awareness Day, September 19th. The day aims to raise awareness of the global scale of snakebite injuries as well as highlight ways that snakebites can be prevented.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 81,000 and 138,000 people around the world die each year from snakebite and up to 400,000 are left permanently disabled or disfigured, as a result of being bitten by venomous snakes. In many communities, these permanent injuries result in people being discriminated against and ostracised. It leads to crippling loss of income, debt, mental health issues and reduced quality of life.

In 2017, the World Health Organization added snakebite envenoming to its list of highest priority neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and in May this year the 71st World Health Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the governments of the world and the WHO to tackle the problem.

Dr David Williams, Head of the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne, says: “developing a sustainable package of interventions to reduce the burden of death and suffering is a substantial challenge. The WHO has started the process of preparing a strategic road map that aims at cutting deaths and disability by 50% before 2030”.

“But to succeed the WHO needs support and assistance from a wide range of partners, and in that regard, establishing an International Snakebite Awareness Day is a huge step in the right direction.”

The Australian Venom Research Unit joins the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and HygieneLillian Lincoln FoundationThe Kofi Annan FoundationLiverpool School of Tropical MedicineThe International Society on ToxinologyThe Wellcome TrustHealth Action International, Médecins sans Frontières SeqirusInstituto Clodomiro Picado, and Instituto de Biomedicina de Valencia in launching International Snakebite Awareness Day.

The coalition hopes that International Snakebite Awareness Day will galvanise action around the issue and add momentum to a call, which was supported by the late Kofi Annan, on national governments, health agencies, pharmaceutical companies and non-governmental organisations to acknowledge snakebite as a global health issue.

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Dr David Williams