Published : Tuesday, 27 August, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Dengue scenario is getting fiercer throughout Bangladesh this year. Though we have been familiar with dengue for few years but this year the outbreak is like an epidemic. Initially the disease was contained inside Dhaka but it did not take much time to spread outside. Over the last few days, hospitals outside Dhaka are receiving more dengue patients than those in the capital.
Considering the state of healthcare facilities in rural areas, it is evident the situation is getting more alarming. We are now trying to fight dengue in the hospitals but in reality, it should be fought at the breeding sources. We are all depending on the government to fight this war against dengue. But the truth is a social movement with nationalistic ideology at the core is required to record win over Aedes mosquito and that movement is very much missing till this moment.
Though the dengue situation is very critical right at this point but it can turn a lot worse during the next few weeks. The capital is already suffering and now with the number of patients rising in hospitals outside Dhaka, we are going to face huge challenges to cope with the pressure. Moreover, many upazila health complexes throughout the country do not have any pathology labs, which will put dengue patients in rural areas and suburbs in more trouble. In many hospitals outside Dhaka, the current flow of dengue patients has increased the burden of the hospital. This situation is going to get worse in the upcoming weeks as if the number of patients continues to rise, it will be a huge challenge for the authorities.
The current spell of dengue started from Dhaka and is now spreading fast to outlying districts as a huge number of people travelled from the capital to different districts during Eid vacation. Given the inadequate health facilities in rural and remote areas, preventive measures are the most important to adopt like; using mosquito nets. If a dengue patient does not remain under mosquito nets, and if a non-infected Aedes mosquito bites him, that mosquito will also be infected and will spread the virus. During an epidemic-like situation, a disease can quickly spread outside the affected areas.
More than 40 people have died till now from dengue in Bangladesh, with over 50,000 cases reported throughout the country since January as the authority claimed. The number of confirmed cases recorded is more than five times higher than any other year in Bangladesh as we have been struggling to contain the surge of dengue patients. Before this the highest number of dengue cases recorded in a single year in Bangladesh was 10,148 in 2018. This increase has been huge and depicts our lack of readiness to face dengue as a disease.
Dengue peaked in September in last few years but authorities hoped the number of cases would gradually reduce following strong control measures. The high number of dengue cases this year can be related to global warming, which changed the rain pattern, supporting the breeding of the Aedes. In tropical and sub-tropical countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia everywhere the number of dengue cases are being reported in a much higher numbers than primarily anticipated.
Because of the global warming, this year we did not see heavy rains during the peak of rainy season, which normally helps us wash out larva. Moreover, high humidity came out as another factor as it helped the germ grow in the mosquitoes. But never the less, it is mostly a man-made disaster as we have a lack of awareness about personal and social hygiene. The repeated use of the same insecticide led to creating resistance among the mosquitoes, which also contributed to this epidemic-like outbreak.
We are fighting hard with dengue after someone is getting affected by it. But this is not going to help much as controlling Aedes mosquito at source is the key to reducing the number of dengue patients. Aedes mosquitoes are now out of control and everyone should come forward and take effective measures to destroy all breeding sources and that will require a social movement to control the situation.
It is very unfortunate that, though we speak a lot about social issues, we do not take timely measures for the welfare of the people. Dengue is mostly derived from mosquitoes bred in our surroundings.
Usually we have small bushes or dirty things in between the small passages between two buildings. There are many buildings in the capital which have few trees in front, which are often filled with weeds and remain wet. There are huge areas along with fuzzy grasses alongside different roads of the capital. These places are actually great breeding sources of Aedes mosquitoes. We all want the government to clean those places but it is not possible for the government to clean every dirty passages of every building. The people should come forward to keep their surroundings clean.
We are very responsible in our words but not with our works. Most of the apartment buildings have building committee and if they had taken some steps to clean their surrounding muddy or wet dirty areas, they could have saved themselves but this type of initiatives are still rare in Dhaka. Moreover, the ruling party and many other parties have ward committees and even unit committees with thousands of members. But none of them were found with cleaning initiatives.
They could have easily conducted cleaning missions in their area which would draw the attentions of the people too and with people’s participation, these ward of unit leaders and activists could have eliminated all breeding places of Aedes mosquito. It was a tough task for the government but with everyone’s participation, it could have been very easy. Unfortunately we love only talking about the issues and government’s failure.
The opposition parties including few small parties who are often found providing strong statements did not hesitate to blame the government for their failure to contain dengue. But none of them including the largest opposition party – Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders or activists were found taking a single initiative to clear breeding zones of Aedes mosquitoes.
They could have come closer to the people if their workers were found taking such initiatives. But truly the feeling of nationalism is getting extinct among the Bangladeshis as we remain away from resolving any people’s welfare issues.
Decades back, when modernization and digitalization was far away, we had seen strong steps of the government to keep the surroundings clean and out of mosquitoes. Even before few years, the government used to initiate ‘food for works’ like projects to clean household surroundings, ponds, wetlands etc. Students and teachers of different schools and colleges with thousands of villagers used to participate in those projects.
Flyers were thrown from helicopters to get attentions of the people in such cleaning works. Even in remote areas, anti-mosquito medicines were sprayed as no household or wet areas or bunch of heavy bushes were spared. Such initiatives are missing in today’s Bangladesh. There was no proper communication system then but there was good intent and love for the country which driven everyone to care for own as well as other’s families.
The nationalist ideology is getting lost in the modern race of life. Not only in urban but also in rural areas, we are getting self-centric and have no time for others or the society. It is also true that love for the country is rare now-a-days. The educated families now dream to migrate abroad with different logics like uncertainty of life, security reasons or lack of facilities. Many are opting for second home options in developed countries taking away huge money from the country. Most adequate families try to avail their children’s education abroad.
While the urban people are trying to migrate abroad, the rural people are also migrating to urban areas for better life. Hence, we are not associating ourselves to the welfare of our very own community as we are actually not owning this nation and this scenario is depicted on different national issues where we remained idle.
To fight this phenomenon called dengue, it is reality that the government could have done more but along with that it is also true that everyone – mass people, opposition parties, NGOs, humanitarian and voluntary organizations could have done more from their positions. Dengue scenario is going to be fiercer in the upcoming years for sure. We are now approaching the last stage of dengue epidemic this year but soon we need to take preparation for the next season’s fight. Along with the government, everyone including political and social organizations must participate in this fight against Aedes mosquito by cleaning our own neighbourhoods.
Dengue has given us a great lesson this time that is we are not going to cope up with natural disasters if we do not act united. It is not only up to the government. On different instances, the Bangladeshi people faced adverse situation together and had overcome those successfully. Bangladesh is well acclaimed throughout the global for its disaster management.
But in our every success story, there was participation from everyone. If we do not show that trait in the future, we will not be able to ensure disaster management. Hence, we will fall behind in human indices and fail to sustain our development and progress. It is so very important to stay united with patriotism in our hearts. We hope from now on, we will be able to save our family, our friends and our neighbours not only from dengue but also from all sorts of natural disasters.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)