The Kofi Annan Foundation welcomes the decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) to add snakebite envenoming to the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) portfolio.
Snakebites cause far more deaths – between 94,000 and 125,000 – than many other, more well-known diseases on the WHO’s list of recognized NTDs, such as Leishmaniasis (20,000-30,000) or Dengue hemorrhagic fever (20,000). Yet, until now, snakebite envenoming lacked a similar status, which meant less awareness and fewer resources to research, treat, and control this terrible disease.
In December 2016, the Kofi Annan Foundation convened a group of policy-makers and world-renowned experts on snakebite to discuss the scale of the problem and develop solutions. It was also agreed that adding snakebite to the list of neglected tropical diseases and thereby treat it as a priority was critical.
The Kofi Annan Foundation therefore welcomes the WHO’s leadership in this area, which forms a crucial step towards reducing the global burden of snakebite envenoming. This exciting news is also the result of hard work by a coordinated multi-stakeholder movement, comprising of committed governments, civil society, academia, international organizations, philanthropy, and the private sector.
While the adoption of snakebite envenoming as an NTD is a critical step, it only marks the beginning of the important effort to reduce the suffering caused among some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities. We now have to keep the momentum going and continue to work across all sectors to reduce the burden of this disease immediately and so bring concrete improvement to the health and wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable people.