Government wants to eradicate at least two NTDs by 2023
Despite thousands of people dying from snakebite every year in Bangladesh, the government finds it tough to ensure an effective supply chain of anti-venom, thus helping reduce fatalities, a top health official has said.
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Director (Mycobacterium Disease Control) Prof Md Shamiul Islam said: “Ensuring a supply chain of anti-venom to service (upazila) level is a key challenge for the country."
He, however, argued that the anti-venoms were not stocked in an adequate number because snakebites were not reported very often, hindering the smooth supply of the vaccines sometimes.
He was speaking at a programme on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), organised by the Health Services Division in Dhaka on Tuesday.
It may be recalled that in 2019, Health Minister Zahid Maleque had said that the government had undertaken an initiative to make anti-venom available at district level and gradually at all upazilas.
Addressing Tuesday's event, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan disclosed that 6,000 to 10,000 people died from snakebite every year.
"The Covid-19 pandemic killed more than 8,000 people till Tuesday while snakebite is causing 10,000 deaths per annum. It is a matter of concern and it should be," he added.
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019, some 6,041 people die annually from snakebite in the country while some 710,159 others become physically affected.
Meanwhile, Shamiul Islam said much of the snakebite took place in remote areas and during the May-October period, with 86% of all victims generally rushing to an ‘Ojha’ (a witch-doctor) for treatment.
He questioned as to why people still turned to ojhas.
Shockingly, many victims became crippled even after recovering from complications caused by snakebite, he added, terming the administration of anti-venom as another challenge for the upazilas.
"An anti-venom has to be injected before blood clots develop. Otherwise, it will be of no use," he suggested.
A number of upazila medical officers and health workers were currently being trained for safely administering anti-venom shots, he said, laying emphasis on skilled administrators.
Among the 20 NTDs, seven diseases, including snakebite, dengue, kala-azar (Visceral leishmaniasis) were matters of concern for Bangladesh, said Shamiul Islam.
The Director General of DGHS, Prof Dr ABM Khurshid Alam, stated on the occasion that the government had set a target of eradicating at least two NTDs by 2023.
Tuesday's event was attended, among others, by the health minister, DGHS Director (CDC) Nazmul Islam and Director (NCDCs) Robed Amin.