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The role of social media in public health awareness during times of war in Sudan: snakebites and scorpion stings


Background: Snakebite envenomation (SBE) and scorpion sting envenomation (SSE) are significant neglected tropical diseases that primarily affect impoverished communities in rural areas of developing nations. A lack of understanding about snake and scorpion species and their distribution exacerbates the disabilities and fatalities caused by SBE and SSE. In Sudan, particularly in regions affected by ongoing conflicts where healthcare resources are scarce, social media platforms offer a cost-effective approach to addressing public health challenges. Our aim in this study is to highlight the benefits of using social media for data collection and health promotion in such environments.

Methods: We present a cost-effective communication and data collection strategy implemented at the Toxic Organisms Research Centre (TORC) of the University of Khartoum, focusing on a Facebook group, “Scorpions and Snakes of Sudan”, as our primary social media platform. Additionally, we discuss the lessons learned and the initial impact of this strategy on enhancing population health literacy.

Results: The group community is composed of ~ 5000 members from 14 countries. During the period from January 2023 to January 2024, we received 417 enquiries about snakes and scorpions belonging to 11 families and composed of 55 species. In addition, 53 other enquiries covered a range of organisms and their tracks (e.g., spiders, skinks, chameleons, foxes, sun spiders, centipedes, lizards, moth larvae, and insect tracks). The first photographic evidence of Malpolon monspessulanus in Sudan was via the group activities. The rare species Telescopus gezirae, the Blue Nile cat snake, is also documented via the group member’s queries. Recognizing the evolving nature of social media use in public health, we also address the current limitations and evidence gaps that need to be addressed to effectively translate best practices into policy.

Conclusion: In conclusion, utilizing Facebook as an institutional platform to share scientific information in simple Arabic language underscores the proactive roles that citizens, scientists, and public health stakeholders can play in leveraging social media for eHealth, eAwareness, and public health initiatives. This approach highlights the potential for collaborative efforts, particularly during crises, to maximize the benefits of social media in advancing public health.

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Journal Article
Baleela RMH
Mohammad A
Saeed SAK