In pictures - Dengue: Turning up the volume on a silent disaster

Dengue is a major public health issue. Forty per cent of the world’s population is at risk from dengue. The overall disease burden varies from region to region, with Asia-Pacific housing 75 per cent of those at risk. It is estimated that every year dengue costs Americas 2.1 billion US dollars and the South-East Asia economies could lose 2.36 billion US dollars due to the disease. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are empowering volunteers and communities with information and skills to reduce their exposure and risk to dengue.

Costa Rica: In 2013, through funding made available from the IFRC disaster relief emergency fund (DREF), the Costa Rican Red Cross launched a major campaign to fight dengue in communities and, crucially, in homes. The Costa Rican Red Cross is working with the Ministries of Health and Education and other local institutions involved in the national efforts to eliminate dengue.


Timor-Leste: According to the Ministry of Health, since early January 2014, more than 160 people have contracted dengue, with two cases being fatal. Through a grant made available from IFRC’s disaster relief and emergency fund (DREF), Timor-Leste Red Cross Society is raising awareness about the disease. Changing behaviour is the only way to reduce transmission of dengue. “There is no cure, no vaccine. You can only prevent dengue by cleaning your environment, throwing away things that can hold stagnant water and stop the mosquitoes from breeding,” says Dewindra Widiamurti, IFRC’s health delegate.

Nicaragua: The knowledge that Alejandra Mendoza-Rivera acquired through a home visit she received from the Nicaraguan Red Cross saved the lives of her two children, Osmari, 2, and 12-year-old Francisco. “Both children had high fever so we went to the health centre because I did not know what it was but I was scared that it could be dengue,” she says. The results confirmed her fears. Now she takes even more care in cleaning her home like, “Keeping the water receptacles protected, cleaning my yard, putting covers on barrels, be careful and always clean.”


Viet Nam: Dengue fever has been a major public health issue in Viet Nam for decades, but the rates of both infection and death have been reduced as a result of vigorous national efforts in prevention and control. In the Binh Chanh district of Ho Chi Minh City, 70-year-old Nguyen Thi Kieu Nga, a Viet Nam Red Cross volunteer makes house calls and explains the symptoms of dengue fever, how to identify the aedes aegypti mosquito and hands out leaflets to householders: “No Aedes Mosquito, No Larvae, No Dengue!”


Honduras: “At the moment we are in the middle of a dengue epidemic. We have had some deaths reported in the municipality and the support of the Red Cross has been essential because not only do they help us respond to the epidemic with diverse educational activities, fumigation, elimination of hatcheries, cleaning campaigns, but they also help us transfer sick patients to hospitals to provide healthcare,” says Villanueva’s Mayor Dr. Walter Perdomo, who’s municipality has been affected by dengue.


Maldives: In 2011, Maldives saw a record of 2,909 cases of dengue. Mariyam Shakeela’s 13-year-old son was diagnosed with severe dengue. Lacking proper medical assistance on Thaa Veymandoo, the island she lives on, the family had to travel to Male for treatment. “Doctors said it was a 50-50 chance he will survive. Friends and relatives helped us hiring a boat, since we couldn’t afford it,” says Mariyam.


El Salvador: For Oscar and his family, dengue is not a silent disaster. His older brother was diagnosed with severe dengue, which can be fatal. “It started with him bleeding out of his nose and at first we thought that he had been injured,” Oscar said. “But when the bleeding continued my mother took him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed.” His brother was in the hospital for a month.


Mu Thar Village, Myanmar: “The community health workers, they live in this village. We believe them, we trust them,” says Cho Cho Win. They are always there to provide health advice and supporting medical referrals. The community health workers in the village have also organized clean-up exercises and have been going house-to-house to share information on dengue. This includes warning people not to leave standing water around their homes, which can become mosquito breeding sites.