Dengue dread  

Wednesday, 12 July 2017 02:47 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The dengue crisis is threatening to spiral out of control, what with both government and private hospitals reportedly forced to turn patients away in the face of increasingly overcrowded wards. 

Already over 84,000 cases of infections have been reported islandwide over the past seven months. Over 43% of those cases are from the Western Province alone – the hardest hit so far. The number of hospital admissions is hard to ascertain at the moment as the authorities have stopped releasing those figures for reasons best known to them. So far some 225 people have died in the epidemic.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne has given an assurance that a program is underway to curb the spread of dengue by 50% in a month based on recommendations made by a team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO). A bold and noble aspiration, to say the least, but whether or not it’s actually realistic remains to be seen.

Earlier this week the Western Province Chief Minister imposed a 2% tax on abandoned lands. The Chief Minister told this newspaper that he hoped that legislation that already exists in the local Government Ordinance will push the public to clear lands to ensure dengue sources are destroyed. Immediate results are expected as early as this week, he said, warning that authorities will waste no time in taking over land if owners don’t come forward. 

Incidentally, the same legislation also provides for local government authorities to ensure that such abandoned land is cleared at State expense. According to comments made by Chief Minister Isura Devapriya, the Western Provincial Council expects to clear the lands spending State money, which will later be charged from the owners of said land.

According to news reports, a report compiled by the team of WHO experts was to be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers yesterday. All of this is taking place while desperate patients can be seen struggling to get admitted to hospitals that are full to the brim with dengue patients. The Government has reportedly taken steps to only admit critical dengue patients to State hospitals in order to manage the chaos. Expensive private hospitals too are filled to capacity, which goes to show the severity of the outbreak this year.

A lot of the blame for this unfortunate state of affairs can be laid squarely at the door of the Government, the garbage issue that’s been piling up over the past few weeks, the delay in local government elections that has in turn worsened the garbage issue, among other things, have undoubtedly contributed to the worst dengue outbreak in recent history. 

However, that does not mean the public can wipe their hands clean in smug satisfaction that politicians alone should take all the blame. The onus is on the people of this country to take matters into their own hands and fight this pressing issue. While it’s true the Government is barely doing its job, the people too have a role to play in cleaning up the mess – literally and figuratively. It’s their lives and their children’s lives at stake.