Sri Lanka and Kolkata have tackled dengue outbreaks effectively while Bangladesh has lagged behind.
The Bangladesh government’s steps to seek advice from experts from WHO and Kolkata Municipal Corporation, cutting tax on imported dengue testing kits and fixing prices in such crisis situation are commendable.
But the measures have been taken at the cost of lives.
The death toll has reached 60, as per private statistics, and 27, 437 patients have been hospitalised till August 5, according to sources at the Directorate General of Health Services.
Both our city corporations spent a major portion of their budgets in purchasing mosquito repellents.
In dengue prevention drives, DNCC has spent 17.50crore of the allocated Tk 21crore while DSCC spent Tk 19.5crore of Tk 26crore budget.
The major portion has been spent in purchasing fogs and sprays.
After spending so much, why did we fail?
The city corporations directed their staff to fog and spray drains and outside areas as they cannot get into households.
WHO official Dr Nagpal on Monday, however, described fogging on open spaces as ‘highly ineffective.’
KMC Deputy Mayor Atin Ghosh said spraying only moves mosquitoes from one place to another. Instead of fogging, he recommended destroying the Aedes mosquito breeding grounds.
Though both the Dhaka city corporation mayors shot down allegations of the ‘ineffectiveness’ of the mosquito repellents, the dengue outbreak has taken near ‘epidemic’ form.
Instead of emphasizing on repelling mosquitoes, the government must take effective action to destroy the Aedes species.
Dr Nagpal said 40 percent of the dengue outbreak can be prevented by destroying the larvae.
City corporations may seek help from the government to conduct mobile court drives at building construction sites as studies have found these sites are major sources of Aedes larvae.
The mobile court can hand down fines if Aedes mosquito larvae are found within their premises.
Many mega projects are currently being implemented in the country, including 100 economic zones, Padma bridge construction, metro rail construction, Rooppur power plant and many other projects.
These sites could also be Aedes breeding grounds. Authorities of the sites should be directed by the government to monitor the sites regularly and destroy larvae, if found there.
Bangladesh also may engage a cross-section of people in anti-Aedes drives, as has been done in Sri Lanka and in Kolkata.
KMC Mayor Firhan Hakim stressed on collecting data of affected patients in every ward, and to use the data to identify and destroy the breeding grounds of Aedes mosquitoes.
The government may use the positive energy of the country’s youth in combating dengue.
During the road safety movement, students from almost all educational institutions took to the streets and controlled traffic with a large amount of success.
The government may engage school, college and university students in forming teams of volunteers in the data collection process.
The city corporations may seek help from schools, colleges and universities in this regard.
If they give an hour every day, the data collection process could be accelerated.
Based on the data, the Aedes breeding grounds could be blown away.
The teams could also be sent to doorsteps in their respective wards with leaflets bearing information on dengue preventive action inside homes.
Dr Nagpal said Aedes can breed in very small amounts of stagnant water and live under sofas, beds, and clothes on hangers.
The team could give guidelines to people on cleaning the household water-bearing items once a week, and dust off the clothes.
Celebrities and public representatives could also be engaged in the anti-mosquito programme.
Short films, advertisements could be made on the seriousness of the disease with advice at the end on raising awareness and engaging them in the drive.
Images and videos showing how to remove stagnant water from the house and spraying mosquito repellents under sofas, beds and clothes could be circulated on social media and television channels.
The government should also open more helplines for complaints and on preventing dengue.
Besides, the government should monitor and accelerate the process of importing repellents and kits.