[Yemen] The Much Needed Snake Antivenom

One day, we received  Adel, a 12 year old boy, who was bitten by a snake few hours earlier. He came in a state of severe envenomation. He's barely conscious. Blood was coming out of his mouth and his ear. His eyelids were dropped. His right foot was swollen up to his ankle.

He had all the signs of severe envenomation. We thought he was going to die.

He didn't.

In this desert country where venomous snake is not hard to find, number of snake bite cases is quite constant. Each week we receive 10-15 cases. This means that in one year we receive more than 500 cases.

People live in houses where they keep the doors and windows open almost all the time due to the heat. This makes them prone to the bite of this slithering creature. The more fortunate ones have their houses tightly closed to keep the air-conditioned room cool. But it doesn't mean they are snake-bite free. The threat is still there: when they go to the market, when children go to school, when people are outside of their houses, snakes can still bite.

So, unlike Malaria or Dengue that we can prevent by trying to prevent mosquito bite, it's not quite the same with snake.

When snake bite is not easily preventable, what we can do in managing case of snake bite is by giving anti venom as soon as possible to the patient. Since different place has different types of snakes, it is better to use locally-produced antivenom, the one that is specifically made against the snakes that are found in that area. But the availability of antivenom is a challenge itself. In the project we have been using antivenom that is produced by a company in Saudi Arabia. Since we receive it from Sanaa, it takes time from when we order to the time the antivenom arrives in our hospital. The problem is some patients may need more antivenom compare to other patients and use almost all of the supply. When this thing happens, we have to purchase it locally which quality is questionable. The good thing is, the one that we buy here in Abs seems to work quite well even though it was manufactured in India.

One thing for sure, as MSF is the only one providing free-of-charge the expensive snake antivenom, people from different districts, even the ones from far places like near the border to Saudi Arabia, come to our hospital to seek antivenom that is needed so much.

Even so, the majority of snake bite patients are still unable to access the treatment that can save their lives. So the path to provide people living with high risk of snake bite is still far from reach.


  1. Desert snake can be very poisonous.... i wonder if the people there are aware of the first aid treatment that they can do for snake bitten victim prior to dispatching them to the closest hospital...

  2. ntar kalo pulang ke Indonesia...
    belajar ke Sioux yak pak... :)


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