WHO Plans To Enhance It’s Combat Against Snakebites

WHO estimates venomous snakes bite 1.8 million to 2.7 million people a year

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A snake charmer points out a snakebite during a performance with a snake outside a temple in Allahabad, India.
A snake charmer points out a snakebite during a performance with a snake outside a temple in Allahabad, India. VOA

Governments around the world plan to strike back harder against snakebite, a scourge that kills tens of thousands of people a year.

A World Health Organization (WHO) resolution raises the priority of improving snakebite prevention as well as access to effective and affordable anti-venom. The measure was approved by 192 countries in late May.

The WHO estimates that venomous snakes bite 1.8 million to 2.7 million people a year, killing between 81,000 and 138,000 of them.

“For every person who dies following a snakebite, another four or five are left with disabilities such as blindness, restricted mobility or amputation, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” the WHO reports.

Snakebite envenoming is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, the WHO reports. People in rural, impoverished areas there and elsewhere are most at risk, challenged by poor or remote health systems, and limited diagnoses, ambulances and other emergency care – including reliable anti-venom.

Grass snake
Grass snake, Flickr

In sub-Saharan Africa, just 2 percent of people bitten by venomous snakes have access to appropriate anti-venom, says Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the aid group also known as Doctors Without Borders.

“We need to know better the data [on] where most cases take place,” said Julien Potet, MSF’s policy adviser on neglected tropical diseases, speaking by phone last week from Geneva. “We need to better regulate the quality of the anti-venoms, to distribute them accordingly in the areas of highest need” and to make them affordable, “because otherwise they [patients] will not be able to access the product.”

Potet pointed out that French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur has stopped manufacturing Fav-Afrique, the only serum known to effectively treat bites from some sub-Saharan African snakes. The last batches of the company’s serum expired in June 2016.

Production of the anti-venom takes roughly two years, the in-Pharma Technologist website reported. It said the pharmaceutical company cited manufacturing costs, and competition from cheaper but less effective treatments, in its decision to stop producing Fav-Afrique.

MSF has estimated that the anti-venom costs a patient $250 to $500 for treatment.

Sanofi Pasteur announced in January that it had agreed to divest its anti-venom immunoglobulin range, which includes Fav-Afrique, to the U.K.-based firm MicroPharm.

“We hope this resolution will trigger some actions to better regulate the market … and to prioritize and subsidize” anti-venom production and distribution, Potet said.

“Now we need to make sure this resolution is translated into a concrete, fully funded action plan,” he added.

A researcher demonstrates how to extract venom from a snake to vacationing school children during a presentation at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 23, 2015
A researcher demonstrates how to extract venom from a snake to vacationing school children during a presentation at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 23, 2015, VOA

A WHO working group is expected to offer recommendations on how governments can bolster data collection, training for health workers, access to care and support for effective anti-venoms, according to Devex, a website aimed at the global development community. It said the group’s report is expected by Nov. 30.

Also read: Australian snakes have Asian origins study

Devex also reported that David Williams, the group’s chair, estimated “about $6 million was needed in 2018-2019 to prepare the recommendations, improve surveillance, deliver antivenoms, and address other technical and medical challenges.” (VOA)

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COVID-19 Restrictions Cause Disruption in Vaccination Programs: WHO, Other Organisations

Vaccination Programes have been disrupted because of the restrictions imposed in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic

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Vaccination
A health worker injects a man with Ebola vaccine in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Aug. 5, 2019. VOA

Nearly 80 million children under age 1 are at higher risk of preventable diseases such as measles, cholera and polio because of the disruption of routine vaccination programs, according to a report released Friday by the World Health Organization and other global organizations.

Immunization campaigns have been disrupted in half of the 129 countries surveyed around the world in March and April, according to data produced by the WHO, UNICEF, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Of the 68 countries, 27 have suspended their measles initiatives. Thirty-eight countries have suspended campaigns to vaccinate children against polio.

The COVID-19 pandemic is “walking back progress” that was made in vaccinating children around the world, putting children and their families at greater risk of diseases that routine vaccinations can prevent, Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said.

“More children in more countries are now protected against more vaccine-preventable diseases than at any point in history,” Berkley said in a statement. “Due to COVID-19, this immense progress is now under threat, risking the resurgence of diseases like measles and polio. Not only will maintaining immunization programs prevent more outbreaks, but it will also ensure we have the infrastructure we need to roll out an eventual COVID-19 vaccine on a global scale.”

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Experts said a decline in vaccinations in one country could have consequences for other countries.VOA

Fearing doctor visits

Routine immunization has been hindered for many reasons.

Some parents are no longer taking their children to clinics and hospitals out of fear of exposure to the virus, while others are unable to do so because of lockdowns.

The delivery of vaccines and required protective equipment has been delayed in many countries because of a cutback in commercial flights and chartered plane availability.

Health care workers also have been relocated to help fight the pandemic, leaving fewer to administer vaccinations.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that to combat this decline in immunizations, countries need to intensify efforts to find and track unvaccinated children, address gaps in delivery and develop innovative solutions.

The consequences if countries are unable to give routine immunizations, “can be deadly,” Fore said.

Also Read: National Capital Delhi Makes a Gradual Comeback

Experts are concerned that deaths from normally preventable diseases could surpass coronavirus deaths if vaccination efforts are not reinstated.

Berkley, of Gavi, requested $7.4 billion for vaccination efforts over the next five years.

Experts said a decline in vaccinations in one country could have consequences for other countries.

Dr. Kate O’Brien, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, said inoculation efforts should be viewed as a “global public good” because “pathogens do not recognize borders,” and if one country is at risk of an outbreak, all countries are at risk. (VOA)

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Guwahati-based NGO Launches ‘Dhara Helpline’ For Free Psychological Consultations Amid Pandemic

Guwahati-based NGO has launched the 'Dhara Helpline' to provide free psychological consultations for masses

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Helpline
NGO Global Pandemic Response Forum (GPRF) launched the 'Dhara Helpline' to provide free psychological consultations. Pixabay

In a bid to help Corona Warriors on the forefront of the global battle against the pandemic, Guwahati-based NGO Global Pandemic Response Forum (GPRF) launched the ‘Dhara Helpline’ to provide free psychological consultations. It has now opened the helpline to the general public with the freedom of “Pay as you wish” option.

With more than 150 professionals from across the country, the platform offers services 24×7 in English, Hindi, Assamese, Bodo, Marathi, Khasi, Bengali, Garo and Tamil.

Dharitri Nath, Project Head, Dhara Helpline said: “On May 14, the Director General of WHO made a worldwide appeal to immediately increase access to mental health services or risk a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months. As the second highest populous nation, a major component of our country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic will need to include support for the masses with their mental health needs immediately.”

Helpline
Dhara Helpline will make efforts to make mental health counseling accessible to all. Pixabay

She added: “At Dhara Helpline we have been making efforts to make mental health counseling accessible to all, especially women and children, and the opening of the helpline for the general public was a natural progression for us.

Also Read: The Wrath Of Amphan Cyclone In India

 

While the Dhara Helpline to the Corona Warriors will remain free, we have added a ‘Pay as you wish’ option for the general public to make the initiative sustainable. It is open for all and accessible from anywhere in the country.” Dhara Helpline for Corona Warriors is +91 92054 67567 (4am to 2am daily) while for general public is +91 2239560964. (IANS)

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Harsh Vardhan to Take Charge as Chairman of WHO’s Executive Board

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will take over 34-member WHO Executive Board as the chairman

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Harsh-Vardhan Symptoms
Health MinisterHarsh Vardhan said that almost 80% COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic. Wikimedia Commons

India’s health Minister Harsh Vardhan is going to take charge as the chairman of the WHO’s Executive Board later on Friday. At a time when the credibility of the World Health Organization (WHO) has plummeted to an all time low and internationally there’s a groundswell for new leadership, this is seen as India filling up the leadership vacuum.

This all important Executive Board has 34 members who are technically qualified and represent their nations. All of the 34 are designated by their respective governments to the World Health Assembly, which in this case concluded recently. Harsh Vardhan had made a long speech there about India’s response to COVID-19 and how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown “leadership” benefiting not just India but the world.

Executive Board meeting
The Executive Board meeting is held at least twice a year. WIkimedia Commons

“The Board meets at least twice a year; the main meeting is normally in January, with a second shorter meeting in May, immediately after the Health Assembly. The main functions of the Executive Board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and generally to facilitate its work,” is how WHO describes the Board’s job.

The proposal to appoint India’s nominee to the executive board was signed by the 194-nation World Health Assembly.

Also Read: Get Your Sunshine Vitamin With These Dietary Sources

While it has not been a sudden decision since last year itself WHO’s South East Asia group had decided that India would be elected to the Executive Board for three years from 2020, the timing is extremely crucial.

trump-Executive board
Trump accused WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of bias towards China. Pixabay

US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) if it fails to commit to “substantive improvements” within 30 days. In a letter, Trump also accused WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of bias towards China and alleged that the “only way forward for the WHO is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China.”

The world health body was forced to give its nod for a coronavirus probe, aimed to investigate China’s alleged role of hiding crucial details of COVID-19 from the world, after 61 countries had moved a resolution at the the WHO’s decision-making body asking for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation”. (IANS)