For nearly two decades dengue, an aedes mosquito-borne seasonal disease, has been a health problem in Bangladesh. Its intensity has increased over time. Until last year the disease, barring one or two exceptions, remained mainly confined to Dhaka city. But, this year, the deadly virus has travelled to most districts with Dhaka city being its main target area.
Official statistics put the total number of dengue patients hospitalised this year at about 50,000 and a half of them got admitted during the first two weeks of the current month. Unofficial estimates put the dengue virus-inflicted death at about 90 until now. What is surprising is that the rising intensity of the disease could hardly stir up any concern among top brass of the two city corporations that were created through the split of the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) with the objective of providing better services to the residents of Dhaka city. They did not feel the necessity of putting in place any specific programme targeting the aedes mosquitoes, the carriers of dengue virus. The two city corporations have been pursuing their age-old mosquito eradication programme where killing the adult culex mosquitoes and destroying the larva of the same vector remained the main objective. However, allegations of inaction or use of ineffective insecticides in the mosquito eradication programme have surfaced time and again. On occasions, the corporations raised feeble voices against such allegations. So, the Dhaka residents are habituated to reading or listening to media allegations and denial on the part of city corporations.
But an unprecedented situation with dengue this year has caught everybody off guard. Citizens are blaming the government and the two city corporations for its alarming outbreak. True, the female Aedes mosquitoes use clean water, deposited in discarded tins, pots, tires etc., at homes or rainwater accumulated in green coconut shells and cans lying along roadsides and in drains as their breeding grounds. The city corporations and relevant other government agencies do need to make the residents aware of the dangers of allowing the aedes mosquitoes to breed in places within their houses and adjacent areas. But there are other places that the vector might find suitable for its breeding. Getting those breeding grounds destroyed, in fact, remains to be one of the major duties of city corporations and municipalities.
Unfortunately, the two city corporations have shown their inability to eliminate even the most common vector--- culex. They do, at times, allegedly buy wrong insecticides. It is not that they are buying ineffective chemicals out of ignorance. Something more---financial irregularities--- does often play a role here. A newspaper report has revealed that one city corporation procured insecticide from another government agency that has expertise in building ships and river vessels. The report did also reveal many other issues that smack of large-scale irregularities.
It should not be a Herculean task for the city corporations and other relevant agencies to rein in the incidence of vector-borne diseases. What remains essential here is destroying the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes. If the city corporations organise regular and uninterrupted and sustained campaign throughout the year it would not be very difficult to control the disease. While encouraging the residents to destroy the breeding ground of mosquitoes at their homes and adjacent areas, the city corporations themselves would have to keep the city clean of garbage of all sorts.