Kapilvastu and adjoining districts in the Tarai region of southern Nepal have one of the highest reported snakebite incidences in Nepal, with women and children being most likely to be bitten and subsequently, most likely to die. The estimated national average is 40,000 people bitten by snakes every year and ‘over 1000’ die as a result. In our project area in Kapilvastu, one snakebite treatment center alone reported 486 cases of snakebites and 21 snakebite-related deaths in the first 4.5 months of 2019. The figures, however, are not an accurate representation of the problem as most snakebite victims do not visit medical facilities, which keep records. They go to traditional healers instead, and some die before reaching any help. Thus, a large proportion of snakebite cases and snakebite deaths in Nepal remain undocumented.
Using a mix of formative research techniques – interviews with village members and key stakeholders, and participatory photography we explored the situation of snakebites in these communities. A group of 20 people participated in taking photographs and 18 people helped plan the film. We heard where villages feel the greatest risks of snakes and snakebites occur, and their stories of how bites are managed in their communities. In collaboration with community members and local health providers, we created an awareness-raising film and posters and banners highlighting risks and how to manage them. We used these materials to tour surrounding villages, showing the film in schools and public places. We were able to reach a wider audience of over 800 people. Another measure of success for this pilot project was the people’s appreciation and enthusiasm and their wish that such an engagement process should reach each person living with the fear of snakebite.