KENYA—A group of experts from the State Department of Public Health and Professional Standards, the National Assembly Committee on Health, and other top snake experts from Rwanda, Ghana, and Eswatini are preparing to launch the African Snakebite Alliance (ASA).

The decision to establish ASA was made during the experts’ recent visit to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), where they had key conversations on snakebite research.

These conversations were primarily focused on advancing Kenya and LSTM’s ongoing collaboration in snakebite research, with the goal of strengthening the Ministry of Health’s long-standing engagement with LSTM.

In addition to strengthening existing collaborations, the agenda also aimed at investigating  new channels of collaboration and partnership to effectively address the various difficulties faced by snakebite cases.

These discussions also emphasized the importance of strengthening the international scientific community by connecting with policymakers and community groups in Africa to combat deadly snakebite envenomation, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes for affected NHIF individuals and addressing evidence gaps in policy and practice.

Snakebite envenomation is classified as a Neglected Tropical Disease by the World Health Organization (WHO) and kills between 81,000 and 138,000 people each year.

The majority of these deaths occur in impoverished subsistence rural agricultural areas throughout Africa and Asia, with up to one-third occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa alone.

The cooperation among these specialists intends to guarantee that new research results in practical changes on the ground, representing a vital step toward WHO’s goal of halving snakebite deaths and disability worldwide by 2030.

In his speech, ASA Deputy Director Dr. George Omondi of KIPRE stressed that the formation of this new alliance will result in a broad portfolio of effective research and policy initiatives focused on improving health outcomes for snakebite victims.

For her part, ASA Director Professor Ymkje Stienstra of LSTM emphasized that the ASA will prioritize clinical and public health research concerns based on community and policymaker feedback.

She went on to say that the findings will be used to develop preventive measures and mitigation techniques for snake bites.

Despite the myriad challenges posed by snakebite, the WHO classifies snakebite envenoming as a neglected tropical disease due to the insufficient global resources dedicated to tackling it, including the dearth of high-quality research.

To address this, the ASA has outlined three objectives: conducting high-quality research relevant to improving health outcomes for snakebite victims in Africa, developing systems to integrate research evidence into decision-making processes in policy and practice at national and regional levels in Africa, and fostering a sustainable and cross-disciplinary capacity for snakebite research in Africa.

The initial study by Alliance member groups highlighted a number of hurdles to tackling the snakebite burden in Sub-Saharan Africa, including a lack of finance, inadequate data, and a need for increased involvement with policymakers.

These difficulties will be addressed as the ASA evolves into a research and policy hub.

In addition to doing research, the ASA seeks to encourage snakebite envenomation through open grants, including opportunities for postdoctoral researchers in Africa.

Members of the ASA will  include the LSTM, Kenya Institute of Primate Research (KIPRE), University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR), Eswatini Antivenom Foundation (EAF), and Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

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