Everyone has to pitch in to control dengue

تم النشر: 3 أبريل 2014 22:43 CET

By Mahieash Johnney, IFRC Sri Lanka

Following the 2012 dengue epidemic across the country, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society started a dengue response and prevention project in the 12 most-affected districts. The National Society is reaching communities through its branch disaster response team volunteers who are trained on the community-based health and first aid (CBHFA) approach and dengue prevention.

The district of Kilinochchi in north of Sri Lanka is among the districts where the National Society is carrying out dengue prevention activities.

Thavarathnam Pushparani a 46-year-old widow and a mother of two lives in Sivapuram, Kilinochchi district, with 340 other families. Since the end of the 30-year war, many families have resettled in this part of the country, where villages are slowly being rebuilt.

Soon after the 2012 floods caused by heavy rains, several people from the village were hospitalized due to high fever and diagnosed with dengue. Pushparani was among those hospitalized. Her daughther Thavarathnam Sinduja, a volunteer of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society’s Kilinochchi branch, informed the branch about dengue cases in her village. The branch sent out a team to assess the situation.

The assessment team noted that the village was located midst a thick jungle and that most of the people were using their backyards to dump garbage, particularly coconut shells, which is used to prepare most of the meals in Sri Lanka. The discarded coconut shells had collected rainwater and served as ideal breeding sites for aedes aegypti, a mosquito which breeds in pure water and is responsible for spreading dengue. Due to the low level of health awareness and practically non-existent information and knowledge about dengue, most villagers did not know the health risks they faced. They were unaware of what dengue was and how to safeguard themselves from it.

Based on the assessment, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society’s Kilinochchi branch organized a clean-up campaign and went door-to-door to raise awareness regarding the threat of dengue and the importance of keeping their environment clean.

“It took us several days to clean our houses and surrounding areas after the floods,” recalls Sinduja. She goes on to add, “Even though we cleaned our surroundings, my mother still got dengue. It is not only one family’s responsibility; everyone has to pitch in to ensure that the environment around us is clean. Doing so will contribute to reducing health risks for everybody from diseases like dengue.”

Following the awareness raising activities, Pushparani says, “We burn all our garbage and keep our environment clean. All the other villagers do the same. By keeping our surroundings clean, we ensure that the environment is free of mosquito breeding sites. I ask others to do the same. I do not want others to go through the pain what I went through.”

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society is working closely with the Ministry of Health to raise awareness and help people reduce the risk of catching dengue. The National Society is also a part of the anti-dengue Presidential Task Force – involving the ministries of health, defence, environment, education and local government. It has been involved in the community prevention campaign using different channels of communication including billboards, television and school children to raise awareness about dengue nationally.

Stopping dengue from spreading is our collective responsibility. Only by investing in long-term community initiatives, we will be able to put an end to the silent suffering caused by dengue. Read more on www.ifrc.org/dengue