Senate yesterday directed its Committee on Health to institute an inquiry into the death of 250 victims of snake bites within the past three weeks in the snake belt states of Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and Plateau. The victims were said to have lost their lives due to the unavailability of anti-snake venom to treat them. The senators want the Ministry of Health to explain why it failed to supply anti-snake venom to treatment centres and other health centres in the country, especially in the Northern region where cases of snake bites are rampant. In the meantime, the Senate has urged the minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, to mandate the ministry, as a matter of urgency, to procure and supply enough anti-snake venom to the treatment centres at Kaltungo, Langtang and Bambur. The lawmakers also mandated the ministry to initiate steps towards the local production of the anti-snake venom. These resolutions followed a motion by Senator Joshua Lidani (PDP, Gombe South) entitled, “Alarming Increase in the Rate of Deaths of Victims of Snake Bites Due to Scarcity of Anti-Snake Venom”. Senator Lidani told his colleagues that the ministry stopped the supply of anti-snake venom to health centres since last year, causing a rise in the number of deaths from snake bites especially in the snake belt states of Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and Plateau due to the absence of the life-saving drug. He expressed the Senate’s concern that 91 victims died within the past three weeks as a result of their inability to get treatment in these areas. The lawmaker noted that there were only three snake bite treatment centres established by the federal government in the North, namely Kaltungo in Gombe State; Zamko, Langtang in Plateau State and Bambur in Taraba State, catering for the numerous victims of snake bites in the area. He wondered why the Federal Ministry of Health, which used to supply the anti-snake venom to the three centres, stopped doing so since last year. According to him, “The Gombe State Government had been supplying the anti-snake venom worth N8.5 million every quarter to the treatment centre at Kaltungo but because of the numerous patients coming from the neighbouring states, the quantity of anti-snake venom has been inadequate and patients have resorted to buying from pharmaceutical shops at exorbitant rates.” Senator Lidani added that the Senate was “alarmed that the suppliers of the anti-snake venom, who used to import them from UK and South Africa, have been unable to import these vaccines adequately and, consequently, patients have resorted to traditional means which are unsafe and unreliable. He revealed that an ampoule of anti-snake venom costs N35, 000 and noted that no fewer than three ampoules dosage was required for the treatment – a sum, he said, most of the peasant farmers in those areas could not afford.

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