Dengue: Don’t blame people, take responsibility of failure

Prothom Alo illustration

The people of the country have faced a grim reality of dengue outbreak and the record number of deaths this year. Although people are not at all responsible for the dengue situation, remarks made by the responsible persons of the government often give such a feeling. The record number of dengue deaths in the country has been registered since 2000.

In 2022, the country saw the highest number of deaths of 281 people.
But the death toll this year has surpassed 1300 till October. Is not this statistics enough to prove the abject failure of local government ministry and city corporations to contain the aedes mosquito and failure of health ministry and Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to contain the disease?

Entomologists from the beginning of the year warned that the dengue outbreak is going to take a serious turn this year. The surveys of DGHS preceding monsoon in almost every area of Dhaka city revealed prevalence of Aedes mosquito. None paid any heed to that warning. Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world alongside being the most unlivable city. These make Dhaka an ideal breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes.

Although our authorities have 23 years of experience dealing with the dengue situation, their reaction every year gives a notion that they are caught off guard. Irresponsibility of people in the charge, complacence, and lack of coordination between local government ministry and health ministry have led to the situation go beyond control, but they have put the blame on the people, who are the victim of the situation.

A research by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on dengue situation revealed that the governmental and political initiative did not get prioritised containing dengue this year. Despite all forewarnings, drives against Aedes mosquitoes all seem eyewash. The experience of facing Covid crisis was not utilised. Although DGHS clearly has the mandate to play a central role in the fight against dengue, its activities are confined only to diagnosis and treatment.

Bangladesh stands at number three in the world in number of dengue patients and death toll due to its failure in mosquito control activities and health management. Why could not the government take an effective method in fighting dengue in all these years? Two city corporations of Dhaka in the last 11 years spent Tk 11 billion in mosquito control. But spending so much could do little.  

Public health experts in June urged the authorities to declare a public health emergency in the country for the dengue outbreak. But that call was not accepted. As a result, the citizens of the country are going through intolerable sufferings and financial loss. Many families had lost a member but the authorities did not show any sympathy to them.

People take note from experience so that future calamities can be averted. The dengue situation taught us that one cannot take a lesson from experience if one doesn't come out of complacence, hyperbole or blame game. When will our authorities be responsible enough to take responsibility for their own failure? We urge authorities to take measures throughout the year in line with the WHO guidelines to stave off dengue menace and save people’s lives.