Plus - Letter to the editor

Dengue demands an all-out assault on all fronts

By Darmitha, Kotte

Dengue, as far as we remember, has been around for quite a long time in this country. (We even remember former President Chandrika Kumaratunga correcting a politician who had mispronounced the word; the US pronunciation is “dengay”, and the UK pronunciation “dengee”. The word’s origin is not clear, but language experts say it could be derived from Swahili or Spanish, or both.)

The reason the Ministry of Health has so far failed to control the dengue epidemic, which has taken a number lives already, is that the problem has not been properly addressed over the years. So far, no government has made an all-out effort to eradicate the disease.

The newspapers are running page-long articles about dengue. Now, after nearly 10 years, people are writing about a “Cuban solution” to eliminating the dengue larvae.

Faced with a problem that can be nipped in the bud, our health officials continue to twiddle their thumbs and theorise in high-flown language, without getting down to grassroots, ground-level eradication work. Last week the papers said gutter pipes were hot breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Affairs, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Pradeshiya Sabhas – all have a responsibility in controlling the spread of dengue.

Where are the Public Health Inspector (PHIs) we had in the past? If there any PHIs in the public service, what are they doing? Where are the people who used to come around on weekends to spray insecticide in our gardens, in schools, public places, and premises and stagnant waterways under the purview of government departments?

It is easy to say dengue larvae breed in clear water, but can you say that do not they breed in the mountains of garbage that are piling up daily all over the city? Why do residents pay taxes to the local government if the authorities cannot offer a simple, essential service such as clearing our garbage?

For a country that talks big about everything, it is indeed a surprise that there’s so little talk from those responsible for disposing of garbage. Meanwhile, the garbage piles up and the stench gets stronger by the day. God help those who have to live in close proximity to these unhealthy garbage mountains.
Meanwhile, the shop shelves are groaning under the weight of sub-standard mosquito coils manufactured without proper standards.

Will the import of Bti from Cuba solve our dengue larvae problem and not cause other environmental problems?

Why can’t we go on a massive countrywide campaign under the supervision of PHIs (if they still exist) and resume the weekly or fortnightly practice of spraying insecticide, which was the former practice?
Where is the commitment of the relevant ministers and government departments to solve this problem?

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