Salvadorian Red Cross: Awareness and knowledge is key in curbing dengue

Published: 3 April 2014 11:02 CET

By Enrique Guevara in Panama

The seriousness of dengue is often underestimated, but each year thousands of people are killed, and millions affected by the disease. Following a dengue outbreak in 2012, the Salvadorean Red Cross carried out a range of dengue-prevention activities, including public education and awareness campaigns in communities and schools. The National Society also carried out clean-up initiatives to prevent and destroy mosquito breeding sites – such as pools of rainwater and water receptacles.

Oscar Armando Mendoza, a student at the Centro Escolar Milingo, lives in Habitat Confien with his mother and three brothers. Oscar attended a dengue awareness raising workshop organized in his school. His school was one of 250 visited by the Red Cross in an effort that reached over 230,000 pupils.

During the workshop the importance of keeping clean surroundings to prevent diseases like dengue from spreading was highlighted. Students were given information and knowledge on simple things that can be done with readily accessible materials at home to ensure that the environment is clean and free of breeding sites. The awareness raising sessions were arranged in individual classrooms followed by messages being spread throughout the school. The students were urged to take what they had learned out into the communities.

“They taught us to share our knowledge with our families, and followed up, encouraging us to give presentations on the consequences of dengue,” says Oscar. “We learned how to prevent the disease and we are prepared because we are avoiding receptacles that could accumulate water, cleaning our houses, covering barrels and buckets.” The messages went out from schools and into homes and shopping centres, eventually reaching an additional 170,000 people.

In addition to educational outreach, the Salvadorean Red Cross, in partnership with the government, began a programme of household fumigation, treating more than 47,000 homes that were vulnerable to mosquito infestation.

“Dengue is a serious public health problem worldwide and the government, health authorities, local institutions and affected communities must be involved in dealing with it,” said Fernando Fernández, ECHO’s Regional Health Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. “ECHO contributes with interventions focused on the most vulnerable and difficult to access communities.”

While short-term measures such as fumigation are essential and provide immediate relief to affected communities and families, the Salvadorean Red Cross – in partnership with community leaders, schools, and both national and regional authorities – is also working on sustainable projects that help communities to prevent and tackle future outbreaks.

The fight against dengue is long and difficult, but Oscar and his family – like many others – have taken firm action to respond to the immediate crisis and to improve the preparedness and resilience of their community.

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