Bangladesh has a stitch to make in time to save nine

Published: 00:00, Mar 14,2020 | Updated: 00:41, Mar 14,2020


THE hospital admission of at least 260 people with dengue, as government statistics say, from January till March 12, which is not considered the usual period for the disease, seems to be enough of an indication of how daunting the situation could be after the monsoon when the infection is known to usually break out unless relevant authorities now step up to the plate. Although dengue infection is generally known to have vigorously menaced public life after the September–October period, in 2019 — when 101,354 cases of dengue infection were officially recorded, with 276 having died reportedly of dengue — the outbreak began in the summertime of May. In January–February this year, the hospital admission of 241 people with dengue was reported. But the figure was only 56 in the period in 2019, 33 in 2018, 150 in 2017, 16 in 2016, 22 in 2014 and 13 in 2013, showing a worsening situation, believed by many to have been caused by inadequate preparedness of the government. The Directorate General of Health Services in February warned the city authorities of Dhaka that dengue could become a severe public health threat this year too. All this together should sound a warning for the authorities to better equip themselves so that the 2019 disaster does not repeat.

But the city authorities are, as New Age reported on Friday, not acting on the warning and are showing a business-as-usual attitude about mosquito control. Relevant government agencies that in 2019 promised an integrated vector management policy to control mosquitoes are now not keeping their word. City authorities are rather reported to have given excuses of a lack of cooperation from other agencies in the capital for their inaction and city residents keep dumping municipal wastes haphazardly, creating space for water to collect in litters that could potentially be safe breeding grounds of the Aedes mosquito, the principal vector of the dengue virus. This also brings to the fore an issue of apathy generally of people and especially of the authorities towards their responsibilities for keeping the environment clean. While citizens have become inattentive towards their clean-up duties, the government agencies have not taken up the task of keeping clean open spaces such as parks, grounds and roads, and water bodies such as lakes, tanks, flood retention zones and sewers. Dhaka north’s chief health officer seeks to say that it is impossible for the city corporation to spray insecticide on ponds and canals but the authorities should not forget that it is for them to do the task however difficult it may seem.

The survey that the health services directorate general conducted in 98 city wards in the second half of December 2019 found a high presence of Aedes mosquitoes and a high density of Aedes larvae. The government conducted similar surveys in early 2019 and early 2018 and sounded warning for all the authorities concerned. The warning went largely ignored and dengue continued to take its toll on human lives and public health. An integrated vector management entails vector control, environmental management, biological control, chemical control and public participation but authorities appear to depend only on chemical control, that too in a flawed way, which failed in 2019. The government must, therefore, clean up its act and go the whole hog to head off any repeat of the 2019 dengue disaster.

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