Dengue crisis: Life-saving rather than political showdown is vital now

Published : Tuesday, 25 July, 2023 at 12:00 AM
Every year, with the arrival of monsoon, the dengue attack arrives as a menace in Bangladesh. The attack is the most severe in 2023. The whole country is in suffering from this dengue threat. Meanwhile, our political parties – both the ruling and opposition – are busy with their political programs eyeing on the upcoming national elections as this dengue menace and the suffering of the people are completely out of their sight. As citizens of the country, we expect the political parties to be on our side at the time of need as they can play a great role indeed to prevent dengue, if they spend some of their precious time for the welfare of the citizens.

As the number of cases and fatalities climb, the dengue outbreak in Bangladesh has taken a concerning turn, indicating all records may be broken based on the trajectory of 2023. Thousands of dengue patients are arriving at hospitals today. As many are not getting admitted and many are not coming to the hospitals, we are not receiving the right number of dengue patients right now. A pre-monsoon government-funded assessment of Dhaka revealed an alarming increase in Aedesaegypti mosquitoes, known dengue virus carriers. According to the report, there was a significant risk of dengue infections in 55 wards of the Dhaka city corporations.

The spread of the mosquito-borne illness is putting a tremendous amount of strain on the healthcare system in Bangladesh already struggling with low foreign exchange reserves, regular power outages, and political unrest ahead of the election next year. This threat of aggravating the nation’s economic problems: Dengue, for instance, is thought to cost billions of dollars in lost productivity every year in Latin America and the Caribbean. Mosquito-borne diseases like; dengue and chikungunya often have deep and long-term impact on human body and hence can create stress on the country’s economy.

The Bangladesh Medical Association, the country’s regulatory body for medical professionals, asked the government to declare a health emergency as dengue spread to 60 of 64 districts. The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning on Friday that the mosquito-borne dengue virus poses a risk to half of the world’s population. But on Saturday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said, although the country’s dengue situation has gotten worse, it is not yet necessary to declare a public health emergency.

Although the Aedes mosquito has been more aggressive this year, there is no discernible effort to eradicate or control dengue across the nation. In order to combat malaria and other diseases spread by mosquitoes, the government used to organize campaigns to clean up the surroundings of educational facilities, homes, and offices along with ponds and canals with the aid of volunteers and offered food for the workers. Every home was treated with an efficient mosquito-killing spray by the authorities. But now, there is no such program. Additionally, there are allegations that when city corporation employees spray medicines to kill mosquitoes, enough pesticide is not provided.

When municipal workers locate Aedes mosquito breeding sites, they visit the sites and levy fines on the property owners. They are even utilizing drones to track down Aedes mosquito breeding grounds and levy fines. In prior seasons, city corporations enforced fines on citizens, but those tactics were ineffective. Furthermore, the largest Aedes mosquito breeding grounds are still under the jurisdiction of city corporations or the government.

Many lakes, canals, and wetlands have little water flow and remain to be Aedes mosquito breeding grounds. Furthermore, by the banks of these water sources, there are little pockets of stagnant water during the monsoon, in between the trees, grasses, and potholes, where Aedes mosquitoes may readily breed. Citizens are not going to clean up thousands of miles of highways and other public spaces, which frequently harbor various-sized Aedes mosquito breeding zones. Furthermore, there are thousands of government facilities that appear to be the most important Aedes breeding zones. These places are not even addressed in any studies, but effective dengue control measures in government mills, factories, and other constructed or under-construction facilities remain critical.

As citizens, we did not see a significant effort to eliminate dengue before the monsoon. Dengue elimination or control necessitates a collaborative effort. Mosquitoes will fly to neighboring wards if insecticide is sprayed on them. As a result, it is critical to conduct the same thing in each ward at the same time. Municipal personnel should perform an anti-dengue drive at a predetermined time in each ward throughout the country for a period of 15 days, the usual lifespan of an Aedes mosquito. Synchronization of the drive is required. The city corporations can also provide instruments such as medications and sprayers to various societies and buildings through ward councilors, allowing individuals to engage in the anti-dengue drive at the same time at their homes.

Except for Antarctica, there are over 3,000 mosquito species found in practically every region and continent on the planet. Malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika are only a few of the mosquito-borne diseases. In this field, adequate research is required. The government used to appoint a ‘Malaria Officer’ decades ago, but there is no such position currently. Bangladesh is a riverine country with ideal weather for mosquito breeding and we will always encounter mosquitoes. Therefore, it is critical to appoint a mosquito analyst in each ward, as well as to offer a proper lab facility to research mosquito and other insects, as many insects as part of the ecosystem can be found successful at mosquito control.

While the hospitals of our capital are serving at thrice their capacity and many dengue patients, both from and out of Dhaka, are awaiting admission, there is no visible effort from our political parties to stand by the people. Focusing on the upcoming national elections, both the opposition and the ruling party are busy in conducting rallies and marches to demonstrate their strength in front of the Western observers to receive their support. If these political parties had taken a program to destroy the Aedes mosquito breeding sites, then they could have been proved to be people-oriented.

The Opposition Party, BNP and its allies conducted ‘Road March’ or ‘Victory March’ and the ruling Party,Awami League conducted ‘Peace March’ on 18 and 19 July. They are giving continuous programs as BNP arranged ‘Youth Rally’ on Saturday and will arrange another rally on next Thursday. Awami League will also have peace rally on Thursday. Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman stopped his political campaign during 1970 flood to help the flood victims and our politicians today should follow his footsteps.

If our political parties arrange a showdown to destroy the breeding sites of Aedes mosquito for only two days, the people will voluntarily join them in the drive. But unfortunately, our political parties are not concerned about the suffering of the people and they are rather busy to find out their own way to gain or retain power.

Dengue is turning into a calamity and every calamity requires volunteers. For example; during flood or cyclone, organizations like; Red Cross creates a pull of volunteers to support the victim. Now, the government, all other political parties and different NGOs should form a volunteer group like the Red Cross to help the people in the period of dengue calamity.

Our political leaders must realize that politics is for the people. The unwillingness of the political parties to participate in acts of social welfare is driving the people away from politics. The political parties have to change this situation by themselves. The main dengue season is arriving in August and it is high time that we become careful and take all necessary measures. Only political commitment can enable us to fight this menace now.

We hope, considering the ferocity of the dengue crisis and the misery of the people, the political parties will stand beside the citizens with some effective and realistic program. Only then we will be able to save the country from the menace of Aedes mosquito before the menace of other unseen enemies. We believe, all our political parties will realize the priority of live-saving showdown over political showdown right at this moment. If so, then democracy, politics and the people will hail.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla

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