Moroccan Human Rights Organizations Spotlight Scorpion Stings


Rabat – In Morocco, the high frequency and severity of scorpion envenomation, especially among children, is sparking human rights organizations to speak out about the lack of accessible healthcare facilities and resources needed to save lives.

According to the Moroccan Poison and Pharmacovigilance Center (CAPM), approximately 30,000 people in the North African country are victims of scorpion stings every year — with at least 95% of victims being under the age of 15 years-old.

Scorpions are most active in warm weather, causing the highest risk of stings to occur in the summertime. Within the past two months, 8 people including 6 children have lost their lives to scorpion stings in Tafraout, Tiznit, Kelaâ des Sraghna, Rehamna, Sidi Bennour and Moulay Yacoub.

In 2019, 43 children and 1 adult died from scorpion envenomation.

The Moroccan League for the Defense of Human Rights (LMDDH) recently released a statement to alert the public of the serious danger and risks caused by scorpions in Morocco. The human rights organization is advocating for better access to medical care and resources that could help prevent deaths by scorpions.

“The inhabitants [of provinces with greater risk of scorpion stings] live in difficult conditions, especially in rural areas, where the most basic rights are lacking, in particular the right to medical care,” stated the LMDDH.

The LMDDH also notes the absence of night ambulances, poorly equipped medical facilities in the region, and a lack of necessary means to treat poisoning.

Without sufficient access to proper medical facilities, victims are forced to race against time and travel long distances in order to seek treatment and anti-venom that could prevent death. In some cases, it only takes hours for a scorpion sting to kill a person. 

Raising awareness

According to the National Center for Antivenom and Pharmacovigilance (CAPM), 70% of scorpion stings occur inside the home. The arachnida creature typically dwells in dark, hidden spaces.

In order to avoid contact and mitigate risks, experts recommended that people avoid reaching their hands in pits or crevices. They also advise wearing protective shoes and clothing, avoid grassy areas or piles of rocks, and fill holes or cracks in walls that scorpions use to enter homes or live.

The CAPM and the Ministry of Health underlined the need to seek immediate medical attention if stung.

The organization stressed that the majority of victims are children. Ghizlane el Oufir, a toxicologist responsible for CAPM’s scorpion stings program told the press, “the greater the quantity of scorpion venom injected and the lower the child’s weight, the more the risk of death increases. This is why children under the age of 15 represent 95 to 100% of deaths linked to PES each year in Morocco.”

Some of the most venomous scorpions are found in Morocco

While scorpion stings can be painful, they are rarely life-threatening. Only 30 of the estimated 1,500 species of scorpions in the world produce venom that is toxic enough to be fatal. However, North Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America are home to some of the most dangerous species of scorpions in the world.

The Buthidae family of scorpions is most popular in Morocco — it is also the most dangerous. There are six species in southwestern Morocco that are responsible for deadly stings and all of them, with one exception, belong to the Buthidae family.

In the most severe circumstances, people stung by deadly scorpions risk heart or respiratory failure within hours of the envenomation. Like bees and other insects, a person who gets stung by a scorpion might experience a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis that can cause swelling, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, and hives.