Partnership to facilitate response to increased cases of dengue in Honduras

Publié: 18 mars 2014 17:13 CET

By Gennike Mayers, IFRC

On 30th July 2013, the President of the Republic of Honduras declared a national state of emergency due to the dengue epidemic affecting the country. On that date, 161 of 298 municipalities indicated the presence of this disease, showing the highest number of cases recorded in the last five years. In the face of this alarming situation, the Permanent Commission on Contingencies (COPECO by its Spanish acronym) focused their efforts primarily on prevention via the destruction of mosquito breeding grounds and fumigation campaigns in the areas most affected by the disease.

Hector Escobar, Honduran Red Cross Choloma branch Council President, explains the strong partnership with the health authorities to tackle the threat of dengue, “Public health is supporting us by providing the chemicals so that we can fumigate and we respond with a specialized teams and our volunteers who are ready to provide the service. We have worked together with them and have been mutually supportive. There is no duplication of efforts. They go one way and we go another, because if we aren’t organized, we will duplicate efforts”.

Rufino Lopez Diaz and his wife Mercedes Trochez, residents of Choloma, have benefited  from this strategic partnership having received a visit from the fumigation team in their home where they also house a small business. “We are thankful to the Red Cross for this great work, because first of all they make an effort to care for each and every one of our health conditions, adults and children, with this dengue disease that is attacking the city”, says Mrs. Trochez. She still remembers the advice given to her by volunteers which she puts into practice at home, “It was about two weeks ago that they came to deliver chlorine, powdered soap and everything we need to prepare a mix to put in our water receptacles in order to eliminate mosquitos”.

For the most part volunteer teams consist of 15 people who conduct door to door visits in the identified districts. Since the declaration of the epidemiological alert, some volunteers start their work at seven in the morning, carrying out eight hour work days.

“I am motivated to volunteer because I like to help and serve others without receiving anything in return. That is what characterizes us as volunteer”, explains Andrea Andino, volunteer emergency responder working of the Choloma branch of the Honduran Red Cross. “None of us are being paid to do this job. We are helping families so that they can increase their awareness about the damage dengue is causing”.

In this same department of Cortés, the municipality of Villanueva joins forces with the Red Cross to fight the spread of dengue. “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 health care. That said, they have become my right hand, an institution which I can trust and have the security that they are carrying out a well-planned activity that is properly coordinated”, says Villanueva’s Mayor Dr. Walter Perdomo, who’s municipality has been affected by dengue. His comments demonstrate trust in the Red Cross.  

In addition to home visits, an information dissemination campaign is being carried out using national and local media and even sound trucks to disseminate prevention messages and radio spots to the communities.

Norma Laeticia López, Honduran Red Cross Villanueva Council President, explains how this community communication tool is used, “Before we enter each community, we come in with a loudspeaker a day before so that people are prepared to receive our visit. Volunteers lead the way, followed by the fumigation machines, knocking on doors and explaining to the people how we will enter. And each volunteer is trained to be able to enter each home”.

In the capital of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran Red Cross is implementing the same activities in urban zones, always in collaboration with the national authorities. The neighbourhood called 3 de Mayo is one of the most affected communities in the metropolitan area. According to Fausto Gomez, an Environmental Health Technician working with the Health Centre, the lack of supplies has been a determining factor in the evolution of the epidemic. “We did not take the proper measures soon enough due to lack of personnel and lack of supplies. Imagine, the Red Cross bought us 50 gallons of diesel and 30 gallons of gasoline to be able to fumigate homes. All this money is coming from them”.

The Honduran Red Cross has been an intermediary, also distributing cleaning kits to the families most in need so that they not only have the knowledge to prevent dengue but also have the materials necessary to adopt good hygiene habits at home. Gomez explains, “This kit that is being delivered today is a donation that the Red Cross has obtained to help those most in need in the community.”

In fact this is the power of humanity and the power of the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent: mobilizing resources to be able to provide assistance to the most vulnerable. In Honduras the goal is to help 6,000 families, but thanks to the strong mobilization by donors, volunteers and communities much more has been accomplished. Although he works and participates actively in the response to dengue, the Representative of the Health Secretariat relates to the families stating, “I have been a beneficiary, as I told the Red Cross colleagues, because they came to work in our zone, because I was alone in this technical area. I did not have the capacity to manage all ten districts that the Health Centre administrates. Even so we had a lot of setbacks due to transportation and time issues, but I have been blessed by God and by the Red Cross with this help”.