Small problems can aggravate into Herculean challenges
With dengue taking a turn for the worse, mosquitoes have become the most dreaded of all pests. The humourous Bengali saying mosha maarte kaman daaga (using canons to kill mosquitoes) does not sound funny anymore because we just may have to use large canon-like machines to kill mosquitoes.
The dengue outbreak this year underlines the gross failure of the city corporations as far as prior preparations are concerned. In fact, last year, there were around 10,000 people who suffered from dengue so, on no grounds can the city corporation say that dengue has suddenly emerged as a menace after many years.
Since the attack was big in 2018, steps should have been taken at the onset of monsoon.
Unfortunately, even with more than 20,000 people suffering and dengue spotted all over the country, there are often reports of a slipshod approach to the problem.
Ward commissioners inactive
With such a civil emergency, ward commissioners should have been on the streets every day, overseeing proper application of repellents. Since there is an allegation that the repellent used is not effective, ward commissioners could have formed committees in their respective areas to take the matters into their own hands.
Obviously, chemical repellents work best but as stop-gap solutions there are many other ways, like burning dhoop, twigs, cleaning up bushes and damp areas.
Using chlorine and kerosene can also provide relief for a short period.
One is compelled to ask if the ward commissioner’s sole duty is to provide character certificates.
In such a scenario, other countries would have set up dengue information/support booths in all areas, employing young people from local colleges and highs schools.
Regrettably, none of these were seen. What is more: Just a month ago, there was complete denial that dengue was moving towards a catastrophic situation.
This rejection of an epidemic provided a false hope to many but by the time everyone realized that there was a crisis, it was too late.
It’s not the duty of the city corporations alone
A leading health department official reportedly said that the duty to eradicate mosquitoes lies on the city corporations. Talk about callous comments!
In such a scenario, it’s the responsibility of all government services to unite and focus on dengue. Since every day more than 600 patients are being admitted to the hospital, the police, Ansars, scouts, and if necessary, defense forces need to be brought in.
What is disconcerting is that it took the relevant bodies too long to admit that they had a crisis on their hands. Possibly, admitting to a large scale health scare would have underlined their failure.
But the cat is out of the bag.
It’s evident that despite having a moderately high number of dengue patients in 2018, the warning was not taken seriously.
Then there is the constant complaint against the repellent used. People are saying that it’s not working.
There is also talk of importing repellent from abroad. If there is no other alternative, then this should been done without any delay, bypassing Kafkaesque procedures.
Do the real estate agents have a duty?
Dhaka is pretty much a city of apartments now and almost every apartment building has a committee. In such a scenario, when repellent is ineffective, the best option is to take some initiatives within each apartment block to raise awareness and terminate possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Since dengue has evolved, each apartment block can also hire doctors to attend to any resident with high fever. In many cases, it’s just fever but as people are alarmed, easing their apprehension can only be done by an expert.
The lesson that we learned
The dengue outbreak has taught us a grave lesson: This ailment is here to stay and round the year alertness is essential. For the city corporation, the lesson is never to take mosquitoes lightly.
Reportedly, there is talk of getting help from Kolkata, a city which has successfully managed dengue through the appointment of round-the-year teams.
A BBC Bangla report stated: “There was a time when the onset of monsoon used to trigger anti-dengue drives; but for the last few years, the Kolkata City Corporation has been carrying out anti-dengue drives, with constant year round monitoring of nursing homes, hospitals, and patients.”
All of Kolkata’s 144 wards have 20-25 workers who work solely to control dengue. One group carries out campaigns while the other keep an eye on stagnant water.
In addition, there are rapid action teams with equipment and vehicles. After getting news, they go to the spots and destroy larvae of aedes mosquitoes.
Monsoon will give way to autumn and in three months, we will enter winter season and at the onset, there will be another mosquito menace. If the city corporations take action now then they can make a winter free of mosquitoes.
A comprehensive drive is needed in this battle; a little negligence and we will lose. Hopefully, city corporation bosses will keep this in mind and take dengue seriously.
With so much advancement everywhere, no point losing a battle against a mere mosquito, though prudent to keep in mind, small problems, if not given the required attention, can aggravate into Herculean challenges.
Towheed Feroze is News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.