Back to search

Snakebite envenoming in humanitarian crises and migration: A scoping review and the Médecins Sans Frontières experience


Snakebite envenoming is a public health concern in many countries affected by humanitarian crises. Its magnitude was recognized internationally but associations between snakebite peaks and humanitarian crises were never clearly established or analysed. This scoping review searched any available evidence of this hypothesized association between snakebite types of crises, through PubMed/Medline by two researchers. The search also included hand searching, and reports from humanitarian organizations working in this area.

The scoping review yielded 41 results. None described a robust epidemiological link or evidence of causality. There is an evidence gap regarding our research question. Several publications however point or hint towards the occurrence of snakebite outbreaks during conflict, displacement, floods, and migration of impoverished agricultural workers. Non-systematic screening yielded another 11 publications (52 in total). We found Médecins Sans Frontières routine reports showing that 6469 patients were admitted in 2019 throughout its projects in 17 countries. The impact of snakebite was the highest in four countries particularly affected by humanitarian crises, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, and Yemen, with some hospitals receiving more than 1000 annual admissions. Time correlations with conflict and events are shown in Figures. We found no published epidemiological data formally showing any associations between humanitarian crises and snakebite incidence. However, the search publications showing peaks during crises, and monitoring curves in four countries point towards an increased risk during humanitarian crises.

We call for urgent population-based studies and surveillance. Stakeholders should consider upgrading snakebite care and antivenom supply during humanitarian crises in snakebite-endemic countries.

More information

Journal Article
Alcoba G
Potet J
Vatrinet R
Singh S
Nanclares C
Kruse A
den Boer M
Molfino L
Ritmeijer K