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Stories of People Affected by Snakebite

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Concester Mwila - “When I grew up in the village I was warned that snakes are a great enemy, and if I am bitten I would die.  So I grew up knowing that if I see a snake I must run away or hit it with a stick to kill it because it will kill me.  This was realized in 2010 when I lost my dear 17-year-old daughter Emily Nafula Mwila. After school in the evening, Emily went to fetch vegetables in the farm. At 6:40, after I returned from looking for water, I found Emily sleeping, and I inquired what was happening because that was unusual.  Emily said while crying that she was bitten by a big snake while fetching vegetables. Immediately we took her with a swollen left leg to Merceline’s home (the traditional healer) but Emily was in pain and she could not talk well.  As usual, Merceline spit where Emily was bitten, but at this time Emily could not talk and she was breathing very fast. The son of Merceline said we should give her uncooked eggs, but we decided to take Emily to Kimaeti hospital.  Unfortunately, we did not move more than 100 meters from Merciline’s home before Emily was no more.  I am here (at this snake awareness training) today after I heard about this from Isaac.  After today, I will champion this training everywhere as I remember my daughter whom we lost to snake bite, so that we have no more death from snakebite. I will be an ambassador of the Upendo Conservation Area”.

Evaline Nabututu heard about the snake awareness training from Catherine Wangusi (a member of the Upendo Conservation Area). She came to learn more about snakes because she remembers very well what happened to her daughter, Monica Wekesa, in June 2021.  “Late in the evening, Monica had gone to her grandma’s house which was about 200 meters away.  When she was coming back on the way, she shouted ‘Something has bitten me’.  I was outside though it was becoming dark. I immediately ran there, and to my surprise I saw a green snake moving away. We took Monica to Merciline (the traditional healer in the village). She came out and spit in the wound and we went back home, but Monica was in pain.  In the morning, the leg was really swollen and we decided to take her to Kimaeti Health Centre.  She was treated and we paid $95 after selling our goat and two chickens. Monica recovered after a week.  I don’t even like the word “snake”; we were told that snakes are Satan and they kill people.  Today I am happy, as I have learned that the snakes are not our enemy, but part of God’s creation.  I will be cautious whenever I pass areas where I suspect snakes might be, and will start today to tell my daughter and others about snakes”.

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Catherine Wangusi is a member of Upendo Conservation Committee. She shared that until the introduction of the snakebite awareness training, she could not listen to anything concerning snakes, or any picture of a snake.  This was because her grandmother Zipporah from Siboti, who is now 83 years old, was bitten by an unknown snake while assembling firewood in the late evening outside her house about 18 years ago.  They discovered late that it was a snake bite when she was really in pain.  She was taken to a traditional healer because of traditional beliefs and the lack of an available medical institution.  This left her right leg paralyzed and later all lower limbs were affected; she is now in a wheelchair.  At her age, she needs constant support.  Catherine appreciates the awareness training and she says that fear and beliefs are slowly being buried.  She says she will pass on the same training in the Siboti area.

Dorcus Machuma is a caretaker for the Upendo Conservation Area. "In the year 2020, we were shopping in Mwiyenga Centre late in the evening and it was becoming dark. As we were walking and talking, I was in bare feet and I stepped on something. When I checked I saw a black snake moving away. I shouted “SNAKE” and all my colleagues ran away. Immediately I felt pain on my left foot and noticed blood and realized I had been bitten by that snake. My friends were nowhere. I tried to go home, but it was so painful. I was assisted to a traditional healer who was not there. By midnight, I realized I was in Medical View Hospital in Bungoma. After treatment, I was required to pay 21000 Kenyan shillings (about $182). It was so difficult to raise such money, and we had no option but to sell the only cow we had for milk. I thank God I am well. I really appreciate the Snakebite Awareness Training. It’s going to change the mindset of our community members towards snakes and take the necessary precautions to remain friends and not enemies with snakes. Considering what I went through, I will remain a good ambassador of the Upendo Conservation Area as we create awareness to other communities."

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