Third grader Ashiqur Rahman died of dengue fever while under treatment at the hospital on 25 August. Two days later, a two-and-a-half-year-old child from Ashiqur’s neighbourhood, Jeriayana, died of the same fever. They lived in Azimpur of the capital.
Ashiqur lived at house number 154/1, Azimpur Road while Jeriyana lived at 155/1. After the tragedy, the residents of the area took initiative to destroy possible breeding grounds of Aedes mosquito on their own in the area. They cleaned their households and rooftops.
"After the death of these children, we couldn't trust the city corporation to control the mosquitoes," neighbour of the children, Taslim Hossain, told Prothom Alo.
Azimpur is under Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). Another manager at house 334/2, Pashchim Sheorapara in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), Amir Hossain took the same initiative. He cleaned his building and the nearby drain. He also regularly screens if any water is accumulated in under-construction building in the vicinity.
Dengue saw a rise since April this year. It spread across Dhaka during June-July with hospitals teeming with patients. In the meantime, the ineffective insecticide of the city corporation made news in the media. The issue went to the court too. In this backdrop, residents of two city corporations of Dhaka took initiatives to control mosquito on their own.
Both of the city corporations took up several programmes after a court ruling and criticism in the media. DSCC is visiting households since 21 July and destroying mosquito larvae. Initially, it found larvae at over 5 per cent structures which now decreased to below one per cent. The DSCC mobile court has fined Tk 3.33 million after it found larvae of Aedes mosquitoes at houses and structures between 21 July and 28 August.
People are more aware than before, Irfan Ahmed, DSCC executive magistrate told Prothom Alo. People are not only cleaning their own houses but also cleaning the nearby areas, he said. He considers fining while conducting the anti-mosquito drives was another reason for such awareness.
DNCC too fined Tk 5.81 million in total between 24 July and 26 August. Till 26 August, the larvae of Aedes mosquitoes were found at 8.65 per cent houses which now have decreased to 3 per cent.
Not only awareness, many are cleaning houses fearing cases and punishment, DNCC executive magistrate Mohammad Sajid Anwar said.
Public health experts see the action taken by Dhaka residents as a positive step. People rushed to hospitals to diagnose dengue as soon as they were affected by fever and also took initiative to eliminate mosquitoes. The possible breeding places like flower pots, tyres and empty containers were disposed of while they bought mosquito nets, insecticide, fogger machines too, they observe.
It's being assumed that the onrush of dengue has been slowed across the country including Dhaka. According to the former director of Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Mahmudur Rahman, severity of dengue has decreased due to preventive measures. People have become aware and have taken measures for their own safeguard. The government and the city corporations have role too, he said.
Residents who shared their experience of recent cleaning initiatives that they hadn't taken even two months ago, were from Pallabi, Kazipara, Sheorapara, Agargaon, Banani, Gulshan, Khilgaon, Segunbagicha, Shantinagar, Malibagh, and Sayedabad.
Combined efforts like Prothom Alo Bandhusava, WhatsApp group Parichhannata.28 and market owners and the employees' association at Nawabpur market took initiative to conduct mosquito elimination drives.
These roles by the people contributed greatly to control mosquitoes, said Hossain Zillur Rahman, advisor of former caretaker government who led a cleaning drive at Dhanmondi recently. Such initiatives are essential to keep the capital clean round the year, he said adding any initiative is boosted when the citizens are aware and active. It is the government's duty to create a friendly environment, he said.
*This report, originally appearing in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.