It's Hard to Find Treatment for Snakebites in Kenya. Thousands of People are Dying Every Year

A snake antivenom is seen in a container at Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre (KSRIC) in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Kasuku)
A snake antivenom is seen in a container at Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre (KSRIC) in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Kasuku)
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It's Hard to Find Treatment for Snakebites in Kenya. Thousands of People are Dying Every Year

A snake antivenom is seen in a container at Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre (KSRIC) in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Kasuku)
A snake antivenom is seen in a container at Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre (KSRIC) in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, April 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Kasuku)

Esther Kangali felt a sharp pain while on her mother’s farm in eastern Kenya. She looked down and saw a large snake coiling around her left leg. She screamed, and her mother came running.
Kangali was rushed to a nearby health center, but it lacked antivenom to treat the snake's bite. A referral hospital had none as well. Two days later, she reached a hospital in the capital, Nairobi, where her leg was amputated due to delayed treatment.
The 32-year-old mother of five knows it could have been avoided if clinics in areas where snakebites are common are stocked with antivenom.
Kitui County, where the Kangalis have their farm, has Kenya's second highest number of snakebite victims, according to the health ministry, which last year put annual cases at 20,000.
Overall in Kenya, about 4,000 snakebite victims die every year while 7,000 others experience paralysis or other health complications, according to the local Institute of Primate Research.
Residents fear the problem is growing. As the forests around them shrink due to logging and agricultural expansion, and as climate patterns become increasingly unpredictable, snakes are turning up around homes more frequently.
“We are causing adverse effects on their habitats like forest destruction, and eventually we are having snakes come into our homes primarily to seek for water or food, and eventually we have the conflict between humans and the snakes,” said Geoffrey Maranga, a senior herpetologist at the Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Center.
Climate change also can drive snakes into homesteads, he said, as they seek water in dry times and shelter in wet.
Maranga and his colleagues are part of a collaboration with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to create effective and safe snakebite treatments and ultimately produce antivenom locally. Maranga's center estimates that more than half of people bit by snakes in Kenya don't seek hospital treatment — seeing it costly and difficult to find — and pursue traditional treatments.
Kenya imports antivenom from Mexico and India, but antivenom is usually region-specific, meaning a treatment in one region might not effectively treat snakebites in another.
Part of the work of Maranga and colleague Fredrick Angotte is extracting venom from one of Africa’s most dangerous snakes, the black mamba. The venom can help produce the next generation of antivenom.
“The current conventional antivenoms are quite old and suffer certain inherent deficiencies" such as side effects, said George Omondi, the head of the Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Center.
The researchers estimate the improved conventional antivenoms will take two or three years to reach the market. They estimate that Kenya will need 100,000 vials annually, but it's not clear how that much will be produced locally.
The research aims to make antivenom more affordable to Kenyans. Even when antivenom is available, up to five vials are required, which can cost as much as $300.
Meanwhile, the research center also does community outreach on snakebite prevention, teaching health workers and others how to safely coexist with snakes, perform first aid and treat those affected by snakebite.
The goal is to have fewer Kenyans suffer like Kangali’s neighbor, Benjamin Munge, who died in 2020 four days after a snakebite because the hospital had no antivenom.
It's unlikely that snakes will move away from homes, Kangali's mother, Anna, said, so solving the problem is up to humans.
“If the snakebite medicine can come to the grassroots, we will all get help,” she said.



Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK
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Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Under the auspices of the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity "Mawhiba" and the Ministry of Education, the Saudi mathematics team won six awards at the 65th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) 2024 held in the UK from July 15 to 21.

The event featured 603 talented students from 104 countries, with the Saudi team securing 1 silver medal, 4 bronze medals, and 1 certificate of appreciation.

Hadi Al-Aithan from the Al-Ahsa education department won the silver medal, while Youssef Bakheet (Yanbu education department), Mohammed Rabie (Madinah education department), Muath Al-Qahtani (Al-Sharqiyah education department), and Ahmed Al-Shehri (Riyadh education department) received bronze medals.

Mohammad Al-Ghamdi from the Al-Sharqiyah education department was honored with a certificate of appreciation.

Secretary-General of Mawhiba Amal Al-Hazzaa extended her congratulations to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, for this remarkable national achievement.

She also congratulated the students, their families, schools, teachers, and education departments for their outstanding accomplishment and wished them continued success.

Al-Hazzaa described this triumph in such a prestigious competition as a moment of immense pride for the entire nation.

Furthermore, she underlined her gratitude to Minister of Education Youssef Al-Benyan for his unwavering support of Mawhiba and the exceptionally talented students in public education.

She commended the minister's dedication in providing necessary resources and opportunities, which have contributed to the fruitful partnership between the ministry and Mawhiba.

Furthermore, she highlighted Al-Benyan’s efforts to empower Saudi talents and propel them to greater heights of achievement through this collaboration.

Saudi Arabia's participation in the IMO 2024 is part of the Mawhiba International Olympiad program, which operates under a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education. The program is one of 20 different initiatives offered annually by Mawhiba and the ministry, providing advanced curricula and enriching programs.

The initiatives offer a multi-phase journey for gifted students, exploring, boosting, and empowering their ambitions, in collaboration with local and international partners.

Students enrolled in the Mawhiba International Olympiad program undergo rigorous training, over 1,000 hours a year, in cooperation with the ministry. The training, focused on their chosen scientific track, is delivered under the guidance of local trainers and international Olympiad experts.

With this latest achievement, Saudi Arabia's tally of IMO awards has risen to 77, including 12 silver medals, 46 bronze medals, and 19 certificates of appreciation.