Help Victims of Snakebite Swaziland

$60,000 goal

Campaign created 10 months ago
I am not a Herpetologist or Doctor- I am a mother and business woman, and I have a passion for the victims of snakebite (and the conservation of snakes).  I feel complled to reach out, as too many people here in Swaziland are maimed or dying from snakebite: it is a near-silent disaster.  I have dedicated the last 2 decades to helping people who have been bitten by venomous snakes here in Swaziland, as there are tragically few resources to help these people.  Snakebite victims here tend to be people who live in poverty- people who live and work in situations that put them close to venemous snakes (sleeping on the ground in semi-permanent homes, working in agricultural fields, people who can't afford antivenom or transport to a clinic when bitten).   These people do not deserve to die.

I am asking for your help to reach two goals:
     1- $8500: Our Swazi AntiVenom Foundation, which is an Non-Profit dedicated to helping victims of snakebite, has run out of the expensive vials of antivenom which we donate free of charge to people who cannot afford the vials, at hospitals and clinics (swaziantivenom.org). 
Our shortage is due to an increase in the number of snakebites in the country in the last few months, and we need to raise funds urgently- before April 2018- to help the people who are bitten by the 7 species of venemous snakes here in Swaziland (mostly black mambas, egyptian cobras, spitting cobras and puff adders); 
    2- $50,000: We need to raise funds to create some sustainability for ensuring that people can have access to these life-saving antivenom vials, even if the national supply is depleted or expired, which it often, often is. 
Historically, the Foundation runs on an emergency basis, with generous donations from individuals and companies, supporting desperate people, bedside. We use our funds to directly supply the local clinics and hospitals with antivenom, case by case, as people arrive with snakebite.  We want to move out of this "emergency" situation and be able to reliably provide critical help to snakebite victims, when the Government cannot do this.  With these funds, we will invest in secure "call accounts" at local banks, to grow the fund into the future and avoid the emergency situation we are in now.

About 15 years ago, I started learning about snakes in the low-lying area of Swaziland where I live and work with my husband and 3 children.  I learned and I learned, and the more I learned, the more people approached me for help, when there was a venemous snake in their homes/yards and when someone had been bitten by a snake.  I began working with herpetologists and doctors and nurses and conservationists, and over the years, I have become a local expert- with on-the-job training.

Swaziland- between South Africa and Mozambique- is not a wealthy country- and we face many challenges with regard to the availability of the lifesaving anti-venom, resources at medical facilities or rather lack thereof, and basic knowledge, which is indeed improving.

There are nearly 200 snakebites each year in Swaziland, with almost all of the bites in our summer (October-March).  Most summer seasons, the phone doesn't stop ringing with frantic calls from people requesting assistance to remove snakes from homes, schools, offices, cars – basically from anywhere a snake can crawl into.  We rescue from 40 to 120 black mambas alone in summer, as well as many other venomous and non-venomous snakes. Some seasons are crazy with up to 500 rescues, whilst others are more modest with only a couple of hundred calls.   My husband and I spend hours and hours sitting by the bedside of recent snakebite victims, giving advice to medical teams, many of whom I have trained on snakebite management through our Non Profit. 

On average, Swaziland uses nearly 2000 vials/year.  Each vial of antivenom costs E1500 ($125), and on average, it can take up to 9 or 10 vials- administered quickly- to neutralize the venom.  This means each attempt to save ONE person- young or old- can cost about E15,000 ($1250).  A typical salary for a low-income worker might be E1500/MONTH.   Paying for antivenom is an impossibility for many. 


Last week, a young woman died because the national stock of antivenom is too low; I am sad to report this is not unusual.  The clinic administered an insufficient dose of antivenom.  For anyone who has seen a snakebite victim fighting to stay alive, this as good as administering absolutely nothing.  She died.  If the clinic had more stock- and had administered double the vials, there’s a good chance she would be alive.

This is a Government problem- a problem of budgets, priorities, coordination, subsidies and stocking.
  This kind of problem probably wouldn’t happen in Sweden, or Switzerland, or Japan.   There should be a national, Government response to the devastatingly low stock of antivenom- right now- in hospitals and clinics (all of which is nearing expiration).  The vials have a short lifespan (2-3 years), and because the vials are so extremely expensive, clinics and hospitals are not replenishing their stock. 

2018 is a particularly bad year, as hospitals and clinics have diminishing and aging stock.  Again, the Government should be responsible for ensuring drugs for its citizens, along with providing excellent health care and education.  As we know, these are often the kinds of things that are sacrificed in developing countries.  A sustainable solution would be to advocate aggressively for Government to provide a constant and reliable stock of antivenom, along-side international support.  This long-term effort is ongoing.  In the meantime, there is too little- or no- antivenom for people who arrive gasping for breath from a mamba bite.

In my snakebite management courses, which I offer 3-4 times/year, I share an appalling story of getting a phonecall from a mother to say her young son was bitten while sleeping.  The family drove to the nearest clinic, which didn’t have enough antivenom to treat.  I coordinated for the family to arrive at a clinic that did have stock, but when I met them in the parking lot, the child was dead, in his mother’s arms, which were violently clawed and scratched from the child’s desperate, desperate last attempts to keep breathing.  I abhor sensationalizing this most horrifying story.  As a mother, I feel plagued by it.  It also inspires me to reach out, to ask for help, to raise awareness of this dire situation.  

The donations that the Non Profit have raised so far are not sustainable- we are likely to have a similar problem in years to come.  Donating has been an immediate act of compassion.  However, if we can raise enough funds, we can  create sustainability in our work, by investing and growing the funds, to maintain a more constant stock of the antivenom.

The Swazi Antivenom Foundation is a Non-Profit organisation, which raises funds to treat snakebite victims in Swaziland by creating a bank of antivenom that can be supplied, free of charge, to victims of snakebite ( http://swaziantivenom.org).  Through donations from private people, the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation, Canadian Waves of Mercy, and many others, the Foundation had 135 vials at the start of this summer (October 2017), which the Non Profit has now donated to clinics and hospitals for emergency calls.  The Foundation’s stock is now zero.

All donated funds will be used to buy antivenom and treat snakebite victims, free of charge, as immediate emergencies arise.  Surplus funds will be invested locally, to avoid future emergencies of no-stock.    The Swazi Antivenom Foundation will manage all of the antivenom that is donated. 

Please help us.  Please consider our cause.  Your help will save a life......
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$60,000 goal

Campaign created 10 months ago
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