Heed this threat too | Daily News

Heed this threat too

Monsoonal rain has brought with it the dreaded dengue epidemic into our midst with dozens of deaths already reported from many parts of the country together with several thousands of reported cases. The Western Province with the largest population in the country is the worst affected with health officials declaring that as much as 50 per cent of the cases reported are from the WP.

The GMOA has come out with a five-point plan to contain the epidemic amongst which is strengthening the mechanism to identify dengue red spots at regional and Grama Niladhari level and for conducting dengue prevention programmes involving the public. It has also proposed to strengthen dengue related laws and regulations.

The obsession with COVID-19 has made both the public and the medical fraternity ignore the impending dengue threat, which, if not arrested in time, could be far more deadlier than the Covid pandemic which is now very much behind us. However it must be said that the new health infrastructure and the staff mobility that was put in place to combat COVID-19 is very much intact and is capable of successfully attending to the latest health threat.

But, is the public which has a larger role to play in ensuring the prevention and the spread of dengue and towards this end all precautions should be taken. Primary to this will be ensuring cleanliness in the environment and the prevention of pollution. However it is doubtful whether these factors are uppermost in the minds of a much harried public who are engrossed during the day in the battle for survival, weighed down as they are by a multitude of economic woes. Standing in fuel and LP Gas queues may not leave them much time to keep their gardens clean and rid their immediate vicinity of potential mosquito breeding grounds.

Hence, the relevant authorities should take the lead in this connection and galvanize all forces into action in identifying dengue breeding spots. With the halt in construction activity due to the economic crisis there are a large number of incomplete buildings and concrete structures that serve as havens for the dengue mosquito and which could harbour billions of mosquito larvae.

All such structures should be located and fumigated. Buildings harbouring Pradeshiya Sabhas and Local Government authorities are the worst culprits in this respect judging by the run-down state of most of these structures. Perhaps the paralysis of the Local Government institutions due to postponement of elections may have contributed to this state of affairs. Hence it is the duty of the District Secretary or Municipal Commissioners overseeing the functions of these local bodies to get into action.

A thorough inspection should also be done of all hotels and eateries in Colombo some of which are in horrendously unkempt states standing in the midst of broken drains and overflowing gullies.

A health check should also be conducted on the workers at these eateries. Most of the workers are always seen bare bodied and sweating profusely, which needless to say is a high health risk to the customers. Some time ago the Colombo Municipal Council undertook a project to carry out such checks. What became of this project is not known. Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake who came in much praise for her handling of the COVID situation within Colombo should similarly get activated with precautions to face the dengue threat, to which the City is extremely vulnerable. This is because of its population density (there is a floating population in Colombo of a one million people any given time during the day) and the profusion of buildings and structures most of which are in varying states of neglect –not to mention the large number of abandoned and unoccupied homes dotting the city landscape. Special attention should be paid to schools which too are for the most part underused these days due to intermittent school sessions as a result of the fuel crisis.

A programme should be undertaken without delay to clean up all schools and rid their premises of potential mosquito breeding spots with the participation of students, staff and parents. All polluted canals and waterways in the city should be cleaned up together with the slum dwellings and “wattas”.

The dengue threat should be treated with the seriousness it deserves, for its consequences could be more dire than those of COVID. It has already taken a heavy toll of lives, with children being the most vulnerable. Special attention should be given to ensure the prevention of the epidemic and/or the control of its spread. This is more so due to the acute shortage of medicines – even life saving ones - and hence allowing it to get out of hand could prove to be fatal.

Perhaps the Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Association headed by the energetic Upul Rohana who was a familiar face on television during the bad days of COVID should take the lead in this respect in ensuring a pollution free environment while promoting hygienic and healthy habits among the public as he and his team of PHIs strove to do during the height of the pandemic.

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