Karnataka gets first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chatbot for snakebite awareness

To bring more awareness about snakebite prevention as well as to prevent snake persecution, a first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chatbot has been launched in Karnataka's Mysuru.
Karnataka gets first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chatbot for snakebite awareness
Karnataka gets first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chatbot for snakebite awareness

Bengaluru | To bring more awareness about snakebite prevention as well as to prevent snake persecution, a first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chatbot has been launched in Karnataka's Mysuru.

Incidentally, in February, Karnataka also became the first state in India to declare snakebite as a notifiable disease.

The chatbot, launched by Humane Society International (HSI) India in collaboration with The Liana Trust, an organisation that engages in conservation efforts by educating people, provides easily accessible information about snake species found in Mysuru.

They also provide lifesaving snakebite first-aid, snakebite prevention tips, and myth-busting around misinformation about snakes that can lead to acts of cruelty.

“Snakebite is a mass problem which requires a mass solution. As per our survey in the Mysuru district, WhatsApp is one of the most used digital apps. Hence, this is an easy platform to reach many people with vital information that could save human lives and prevent snake persecution. Just as preventing a bite from occurring is important, knowing the right first aid once a bite occurs is crucial too,” said Vinod Krishnan, Human-wildlife Coexistence Manager at HSI India.

According to Krishnan, people have an innate fear of snakes mostly due to lack of information about them. This often leads to snakes being killed or relocated to alien habitats where they have little chance of survival. The chatbot is meant to address this information vacuum and empower local communities to take swift and informed action when snakes are encountered.

The automated chatbot, accessed via a QR code or messaging 'Hi' to +91 9154190472 disseminates engaging visual content in English or Kannada, making it easy to understand.

The aim is to reach at least one lakh users by this year to foster coexistence with snakes, added Krishnan.

India witnesses 10 lakh snakebites a year leading to nearly 58,000 human snakebite-related deaths annually and nearly 2 lakh cases of morbidity. Karnataka alone reported 6,500 snakebites in 2023, stated a press release issued by HSI India.

It is also a neglected tropical disease classified by the World Health Organisation, taking a devastating toll on the socioeconomics of households and the mental health of those affected, according to the statement.

Gerry Martin, founder of The Liana Trust, said the chatbot will also aid policymakers. “The chatbot is a great way to have a continuous dialogue with the community, assess the information they are accessing the most, and add further layers to this such as information on the nearest hospital, ambulance services, and so on in the future.” Incidentally, India launched the National Action Plan for prevention of snakebite envenoming -- a potentially life-threatening disease caused by toxins in the bite of a venomous snake, according to the WHO -- on March 12, which directed states to draw up their plans to halve deaths and disabilities due to snakebites by 2030

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