Civilians Die From Snakebites Myanmar Junta Seizes Medicines

By The Irrawaddy 12 October 2022

Displaced civilians from northern Kantbalu Township in Sagaing Region who are sheltering in forests to avoid Myanmar junta raids are hungry and face deadly snakes.

At least 30 displaced people suffered from snakebites, mostly from vipers, since June and four of them have died, according to civilians. Three snakebites were reported on October 9-10, according to the people’s authorities in the township.

“Previously, people mostly fled to monasteries but they are no longer safe so they head into forests. They do not have access to antivenoms in the forests,” said a resident.

The authorities said they lack the funds to buy antivenoms and the junta’s security checks make supplies unreliable.

A pharmacist from adjacent Kyunhla Township said: “We can’t order painkillers, even paracetamol, from suppliers because soldiers open packages at checkpoints and seize medicines.”

Sagaing, Mandalay and Magwe are home to poisonous snakes.

Antivenoms are either imported from India or produced by the state-owned Myanmar Pharmaceutical Industrial Enterprise (BPI). One antivenom costs between 60,000 kyats (around US$30) and 90,000 kyats. At least three antivenoms need to be administered to treat a snakebite, and in some cases, more than 10 are needed.

When residents appealed to the civilian National Unity Government’s health department, they were told the stocks were empty, said a volunteer helping displaced people.

Junta troops in Kantbalu are conducting clearance operations, displacing tens of thousands from more than 12 villages.