As dengue comes back with a force, Jaffna, the last among the 9 provinces in education, has risen as a district to second place among the 25 districts for dengue by data from Nov. 2019, adding to its backwardness. In order of worst affliction, the affected districts are Colombo, Jaffna, Gampaha, Kalutarai and Kandy.
Jaffna’s health authorities have been caught unprepared, napping without any stocks of fumes that are regularly sprayed to prevent mosquito breeding and infestation.
In the entirety of the year 2018, 2,120 persons were stricken by the virus in Jaffna. In the year 2019 however, 3,350 have already been infected with three losing their lives to the cruel virus. Residents report fewer visits to their homes by health inspectors doing spot checks.
Jaffna is in a health crisis. It does not appear that one party alone can address the matter. A broad effort is called for.
All major hospitals are overflowing with dengue patients. At Jaffna Teaching Hospital, a ward built for 45 patients accommodates 150.
Dr. T. Sathiamoorthy, Director of Jaffna Teaching Hospital, informing the citizenry on the state of the epidemic, stated that, whereas in November and December last year 264 and 602 patients respectively had been definitively diagnosed, this year in November 1,549 having been firmly diagnosed, he worries if these numbers will be exceeded in December 2019 in which in the first 5 days alone 200 patients have been identified.
To control dengue, one way is to treat the disease after getting it, but the best is to guard against it before one gets it said Dr. Sathiamoorthy, adding, that one such way of guarding against dengue is to keep the surroundings clean and free of stagnant water where mosquitoes can thrive or blow fumes where they breed.
The Government Agent and District Secretary N. Vethanayahan, has shown leadership holding urgent meetings with the Department of Health, the Mayor of Jaffna, Director of the Hospital, Director of Health Services and Secretaries of Prathesiya Sabais, to strategize our way out of the crisis we find ourselves in. Surprisingly, their first measure has been to order shut all tutories in Jaffna. This is because they have been identified as utterly filthy with some having no toilet facilities at all, breeding mosquitoes.
A second measure identified is removing all places of stagnant water. The help of local authorities is badly needed but this is a time when most local authorities have failed in removing rubbish heaps in their territories
At the same time, the onus imposed on residents to sort their refuse into categories, and the additional charges imposed on the citizenry when their refuse is excessive have led to residents stealthily dumping their garbage at night-time on streets away from their homes which then no one feels obliged to clear, and worse, others feel free to dump their garbage on the same spot.
Although the Northern Province Health Ministry has announced that in the whole peninsula 5,491 persons have had dengue this year, the burden of paying for the fumigating equipment and chemicals has been passed on to local authorities by the unprepared ministry.
“To end dengue, we need to eliminate mosquitoes. To finish off mosquitoes we need to go beyond municipalities and other local government authorities and get together and work together,” says a municipal councillor with determination.
(N. Lohathayalan – Reporting from Jaffna)