” Minutes to Die “
Snakebite: The World’s Ignored Health Crisis
In rural Kenya, a teenager is found lying dead on the roadside after an unsuccessful journey to reach a hospital seeking treatment from a venomous black mamba bite. He is not alone. Each year, an estimated 125,000 lives are lost, mostly children and agricultural workers in the most productive period of their lives. Another 400,000 will suffer from long-term disability; constant wound care, amputations and ongoing psychological morbidity. For those who do get treatment, families are often forced to decide between life, and years of debt from overpriced antivenoms, if antivenom is even available.
Death from snakebites claim roughly the same number of lives every month, as the total number of lives lost to Ebola since it’s outbreak in 2014. Yet, the tragedy continues to be ignored by governments of afflicted countries and falls further down the list of priorities by the World Health Organization. In 2015, the W.H.O. removed snakebite from the category of “Other Neglected Tropical Conditions”, all the while funding and advocating for 18 NTD programs whose deaths combined, are less than snakebite. Pharmaceutical companies around the world continue to produce less, charge more, or cease production, leaving Sub Saharan Africa in a critical public health emergency.
Enter a group of scientists from countries with zero to ten annual snakebite deaths who are racing to find affordable, groundbreaking treatments. Already proven successful in some countries, how quickly can their antivenoms and ambitious antidotes turn this crisis around? Will a plea by snakebite advocates to the World Health Organization in Geneva be heard?
“Minutes to Die” captures never-before-seen stories of snakebite victims and aims give the world’s voiceless a voice, so the rest of the world can pay notice…and fast.
Sundai is one of the many amputees who lose a limb to snakebite. An estimated 125,000 people die each year, and some 400,000 snakebite victims will suffer from deformities and long-term health issues. He and his family now live in fear and are afraid to leave their home at night.
Jepchirchir was left deformed and blind from a cobra bite, the same cobra that claimed her sister’s life. It is common for snakebite victims to be shunned and the chances of her living a productive life are virtually nil. She will most likely never marry.
A Kenyan family pays respect to their daughter buried next to their home. Her twin sister was bitten on the hand from the same cobra in the same evening. The family, now broke, cares for the surviving daughter who is blind, unable to walk and has a severely deformed hand.
The venom from the Papua New Guinea taipan is extracted to be used to create a new antivenom that is affordable and effective. When finally produced, it will be one-tenth the cost of the current antivenom purchased by the local government.
The wound of a Kenyan child bitten by a cobra. Like many snakebite victims, she will undergo continued trips to the hospital for wound care and eventually, a skin graft.
The family of a young baker, Periyasamy watches over him in an Indian hospital. Periyasamy was bitten by a Russell’s Viper and is now on a ventilator. Anticipated hospital costs will put the family in debt for five to eight years.
- India (Tamil Nadu)
- Kenya (Baringo County)
- Papua New Guinea (Port Morseby)
- Costa Rica (San Jose)
- England (Liverpool)
- Switzerland (Geneva)
- United States (SF and Yale Univ.)