Comment: Spread of dengue fever should be alarming

Malaria still maintains its respect as the leading killer disease in sub-Saharan Africa, surpassing the 20th century wave of HIV infections that rocked the continent. Malaria is spread by a mosquito known as CULEX.

The Maldives and many other South East Asian countries are infested with a mosquito species known as AEDES AEGYPTI, the carrier of Dengue Fever and Chikungunya that have claimed lives of many young and old. In population comparison with neighboring countries, the deaths and spread of dengue in Maldives is and should be considered as alarming.

A visit to health centers or hospitals in islands and Male reveals panic among parents with infants or small kids. Four deaths in two days, the youngest being a nine month-old baby has sent shockwaves in many households and I hope the World Health Organisation (WHO) has intervened. It ultimately raises the suspicion and doubt on the management of public health in a country where health and health education is inadequate, and not an immediate priority in the eyes of the lawmakers.

I support the government health insurance policy which we have enrolled and I have seen benefits in the past year. But think of a person with similar insurance facility but lives in an island village 600 miles from Male’, which cannot provide urgent medical assistance. It’s not acceptable; it’s just immoral, and unfair.

Each Maldivian citizen deserves the right to standard medical facilities, and I ask the Ministry of Health to explain why many atolls/islands still have inadequate facilities. Why a heart patient has to wait for two weeks to use a treadmill in IGMH, or cannot do ECG because the equipment is broken down, why desperate parents of sick children have to wait for days for an appointment, and why Maldivians have to depend on doctors who visit once every six weeks.

Ironically, Male’ is mushrooming with high tech clinics, specialty doctors, and a sequence of tests that leave you broke for a whole month. Most victims are from islands where basic medical facilities sometimes cease to exist.

In December of 2005, WHO Epidemiologist Dr Shalini Pooransingh and the Maldivian government had a fact finding, training and knowledge awareness program on Communicable Diseases, and dengue was well addressed.

Since then, many other workshops and programs followed partly sponsored by international organisations and the local health authorities. Looking at statistics (weekly dengue cases 2009-2011) published on line, it is appalling to see the magnitude of the spread especially in other islands all over the country. What happened to all the training and expertise?

It is nearly a year ago when an article by Aishath Shazra and A. R. Abdulla was published online: “Maldives hit by dengue fever in global epidemic”.

It is a simple straightforward report that is alarming to any parent who reads it, and at the same time it exposes loopholes which law makers and health ministry should look at.

Unbelievably, just 14 persons made comments, and as you can read them, most were abusive, political and out of context. Exactly at the same time of this dengue infestation last year, the streets of Male were crowded every night with demonstrations, ironically not concerned over the outbreak, but keen to unseat the then Education Minister [Dr Mustafa Luthfy] out of office… at which they succeeded.

These street scenarios were well documented and covered by most media outlets. The Maldives has not seen a meaningful demonstration against inadequate health services, deteriorating or lack of
equipment or lack of simple medicines. The Maldives has not demonstrated effectively against pedophiles, abuse of women and children, crime or the bleak and uncertain future of the youth.

But it’s a common thing to have live meetings, street demonstrations, and special TV and radio programs on topics that will not move the country one step forward but lead it to an uncivilised world. Why not use these funds to help the needy?

I do not need to bore you repeating facts and statistics on dengue that you can easily find from the Department of Public Health and WHO websites. My objective was to openly voice my personal concern based on day to day events and to answer the most disturbing simple question: “Who is to blame?”

In sequence, responsibility lies heavily with the Ministry of Health (in charge of public health), lawmakers (who decide laws), municipalities/councils (who manage day to day issues), politicians (who represent the people’s voices) and the public (for not focusing on life-threatening grievances).

I really hope that somewhere, a Good Samaritan in the authorities will seriously look at the four deaths in these two days, the daily grievances of desperate people far away in need of health facilities, and use it as a platform to start a campaign to try manage this outbreak.

The government alone cannot, we need a combined effort from everyone, or each day we would have a new headline of yet another death.

It is time the President, the Minister of Health, politicians and the media take time-off from the daily politics that have slowed our development and taken us nowhere. Better to concentrate on what is affecting the country right now. Public Health is at stake!

Not long ago Male’ had illicit drug problems which were visible on the streets. Boys and girls turned into zombies, but today I also salute the NGO Journey, the government (police, army, NGOs) for helping these kids off the street. It has been successful and many have been rehabilitated, and openly talked about it on TV. Why not temporarily close Majlis sessions, use all available resources and let MPs, health coordinators and doctors go out to the islands and help those in need? Thinaadhoo continues to suffer from a strange unexplainable fever, and sooner or later it will spread to other islands. By the time it reaches the concern of authorities, many will have buried their loved ones.

We had a great laugh last evening watching the match between MDP and the government. So much money was collected, some of it for charity. The night closed with a very tearful yet important program on MNBC (My Way). Hishko and her husband, my very good friends, have done so much in so short a time, for the health of many kids. 192 kids today who have had their Tiny Hearts examined, operated or diagnosed with heart cardio problems, will forever remember this couple for their entire lives. This is just an example of how simple people can make a change in the lives of many.

To MNBC: Congrats, My Way is the greatest program watched by over 80 percent of households and Maldivians abroad. Through such great ideas, I believe you could have similar programs on health, education, computer and drug addiction, career guidance, etc. Not to forget, you guys Minivan, continue publishing the truth. With information, we can partly control this outbreak that is claiming a child per day.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


6 thoughts on “Comment: Spread of dengue fever should be alarming”

  1. The problem with Maldives is politicizing everything.

    Just a few practices can reduce mosquito breeding grounds. Proper disposal of plastic empty bottles and cans is one. Keeping gutters clean so that water can drain out is another. Wells must be covered. Construction sites must not have open pits and places for stagnant wanter. These are not difficult things to do. They can be monitored and policed.

    But everyone wants to score points and accuse others!

  2. There is nothing to say about this article. The link found in it leads nowhere. The issue of dengue is serious but legislative facilitation to combat it is already in place.

    The problem lies with policymakers, implementing agencies etc. Not trying to defend the parliament but it is highly insensitive for the president to participate in a soccer match while the lack of coordination in his administration has indirectly MURDERED 4 children.

  3. In this day and age, Dengue fever should not break in a Maldives – a country with an up market tourism industry and a non-LDC.

    There is no dengue fever in resort islands. Why can’t male have the same standards as resorts…

  4. Everybody knows this is seasonal, that the threat of dengue keep spiking every year during this time. Why couldn’t concerned authorities conduct awareness programs from audio and visual media long before this affliction had engulfed us from all sides? Why not get prime-time TV and radio out of politics and cram the media with programs that let people know how to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds, preventive measures that could be taken in the event of misfortune – other tell-tale signs that prompt you to seek doctors’ immediate attention. Now you will say when you know it happen every year why don’t you do it on your own! I can do, but only to an extent, what about the breeding grounds where people don’t live, and abandoned areas where mosquitoes thrive. The schools where my kids go to school. Are they mosquito-proof? Am I safe if I don’t have mosquitoes at my house? Another question that begs serious answer is: are the island health centres fully equipped and prepared to handle these kinds of emergences, in mass exodus? Do the doctors have latest dengue protocol to follow and contingency plans thereof? All I know had concerned authorities done its homework prior to this deadly fever and were fully prepared to these annual seasonal epidemics there won’t be such an anxiety running across the length and breadth of the nation.

  5. I wish to point out a simple fact here: Between 1947 and 1962, the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti was eliminated from 8.5 million square kilometers of Central and South America. Through rigorous campaigns to remove breeding sites and use of larvicides to kill mosquito larvae. That in 2011, on an island the size of Male, children have to die of dengue is intolerable.

    We are Soper Strategies, a Dutch company that seeks out countries/regions where mosquito elimination is feasible and diseases can be stopped in their tracks. See for details.

    We would be very keen to help the Maldives with sustainable elimination of dengue, in the same way as we are now collaborating with islands in the Caribbean.

    If the government of the Maldives is interested in hearing more about our approach to eliminate mosquito-borne disease, they can contact us through the website.

    We should prevent a blame culture when deaths occur, and get to work to stop more deaths. You need support, and we can provide it.

    Bart Knols, CEO of Soper Strategies.

  6. I think the article by Dr. Jamsheed (link below) covers the issues about Dengue in Maldives:

    I also think malaria is transmitted mainly by the bites of Anopheles mosquitoes not the Culex as this article stated.


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