Growing in the city of urban Lagos, rarely did I make it so often to my native home due to numerous factors. However on the few times I did, it was nothing short of pure bliss, enjoying every bit of serenity in tandem with the bond shared with family. On those visits, running through the pastures, we were constantly reminded to BEWARE OF SNAKES. Luckily, I never had a bout with any of such reptiles other than the Lizards and wall gecko’s or at visits to conservation centers while on tour. I would assume this was a result of having lived in the city for good amount of time. However, at the times were I schooled in smaller cities or had assignments in rural areas; I still never ran into these creatures and never thought their existence as high risk.
Fast forward to the documentary film on ‘Minutes to Die: Snake bites: The world’s most ignored crisis, organized by the Embassy of Costa Rica and the Lillian Lincoln Foundation’. The producer of the movie narrated how he became intrigued in snake bite cases as he began his research on snake bites especially in the rural Asia and Africa. The revelations where jaw dropping. He discovered staggering statistics, grueling pictures of the cases of snake bites and appalling to him, was no one was flagging this situation as high risk and urgent.
According to him, this was at a time when Ebola had instantly become a household name. As horrific as the pandemic was, how could the world know nothing about snakebite deaths, when more people were said to die each and every month from the fangs of a snake as the total number of deaths from Ebola over the 26 month crisis.
This documentary was an eye opener, revealing the most troubling cases of snake bites in Asia and Africa today and how neglected our governments and the world even are about snake bites, which I strongly agree. In comparison, so many health issues are given ultimate attention, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria etc. other than snake bites. It is said that for some snake bites, it takes minutes, as little as 30minutes to cause death to the victims.
The movie also expunged the fact that there are approximately 3,600 known species of snakes in the world, 375 species of venomous snakes and only a small proportion are harmful to humans. North America is home to 25 species of poisonous snakes, Australia and India have the highest poisonous snakes in the world. As with the numerous species of snakes, the treatment for each bite varies with the specie of snake bitten by the victim, hence, a victim cannot be treated from a Tiger snake bite using an anti-venom for Black mamba.
Anti-venoms are excruciatingly expensive that victims barely have the finances to pay for their treatment. As can be gleaned from the movie, some family of the victims where left with no option but to go borrowing from friends and still were unable to raise the full cost of treatment .
The documentary shows a woman, with a child on her back, wailing and racing at the same time, dashing into the hospital, her child had been bitten by a snake. He was Minutes to die’. Luckily she reached the hospital in good time to commence treatment, however, the hospital was out of snake bite treatment which had to be sourced from a nearby town.
Same with a young man, rushed into the clinic, from a snake bite incident, he wasn’t so lucky as the child victim, as the venom had spread swiftly causing him a heart attack, which left him in coma for days.
Victims of poisonous snakebites suffer from a concoction of ailments ranging from kidney problems due to the poisonous venom, to heart failure to paralysis. The gruesome part is most of the victims do not remain whole after the incident, most lose their body parts in the attack and are physically scarred from the incident.
Impressively, Costa Rica has led the cause for remedial cases on snake bites, a summit was held, where countries pledged their support to find cure for snake bites. With some countries consenting to produce and export snake bite treatments.
In addition, health officials have taken orientation to the people especially children, enlightening them on the dangers of walking bare foot and touching snakes innocently.
The World Health Organization’s recent recognition of snakebite, envenoming as a neglected tropical disease and its mandate to actively implement a snake bite road map, will lead to a reduction of deaths and disability.
The documentary has strategically provided a visual tool to draw more awareness, bring new people to the cause, generate global and regional funding and to support snake bite work in countries around the world.
‘I want to the world to know the pain, to know the suffering of the farmer who feeds us every day’ says Robin Bernard- A snake bike victim and bite prevention advocate in India.
This documentary is a clarion call to everyone out there today, to speak about this cause and watch the film at no cost. The Lincoln Foundation is most willing to provide individuals and organizations who want to publicly screen the movie with promotional materials and help work to shape the most beneficial outcome.