The Health Ministry on Sunday said in a statement that the number of dengue cases reported for the past six months of this year had exceeded 20,000 while claiming 31 lives. If we are to put the numbers exactly the cases reported had been 20,731 of which 4,761 cases had been reported from the densely populated Western Province. Also the Health Entomology Science Officers Association had said that the density of mosquito larvae had increased drastically and Sri Lanka marked the highest density of mosquitoes in the world according to the Britto Index which measures the density of mosquitoes.
A week ago the Director General of Health Services, Dr. Palitha Mahipala had stated that dengue had reached an epidemic level in the Western Province and Kandy and the Health authorities had advised the people on regular garbage disposal.
Although the recent floods that swept the areas abutting the Kelani River from Awissawella to Modara in Colombo had been blamed as one major reason for the increase of mosquito breeding, the Health Ministry statement cites other reasons such as the bad procedures followed in construction sites as well. For instance, the Colombo Municipal Council had recently issued red notices to more than 70 construction sites for mosquito breeding. According to the Health Ministry,
the workplace related mosquito-breeding had increased from 38 per cent in 2015 to 40 per cent this year while the breeding in school premises had gone up to 38 per cent this year from 32 per cent reported last year. More than 160 dengue patients including 12 students had been admitted by Sunday to the IDH Hospital alone which deals mainly with infectious diseases and is situated close to the flood-affected areas. The situation cannot be a surprise considering the deterioration of cleanliness in major towns in the recent past for which even President Maithripala Sirisena had reprimanded the relevant minister last year.
However, the situation still remains the same. The health authorities who always rightly advice the general public to remove their garbage in a regular manner do not seem to have taken note of the lethargic attitude of the local authorities who are mainly responsible for garbage disposal. It goes without saying that people in premises of five to ten perches in the urban areas find it difficult to dispose of their garbage without the help of the local authorities as they do not have enough land to bury the garbage, as advised by the health authorities. The garbage problem soon after the recent floods in the Kelani Valley was unprecedented in that area,
as there was a mountain of garbage outside each flood-affected house affected. It took weeks for the local authorities of the affected areas to get the help of the other local authorities to remove flood garbage after so many discussions, in spite of the fact that this was not the first flood experience in Sri Lanka. Though the authorities had announced that they had completed the disposal of flood garbage by June 9, the Health Ministry’s statement on Sunday blamed that the mosquito breeding has increased in flood-affected areas due to the inability of the local authorities to remove garbage that is still piled up in various places in the area.
An international conference on Dengue and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever organized by the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry was held between February 24 and 26 this year at the BMICH with President Maithripala Sirisena participating as the chief guest to “discuss dengue and its management, prevention and control strategies,” among others. It is not clear as to what the relevant Sri Lankan authorities had learnt from that conference and what their follow-up measures were. Needless to say that people have to be advised, but the lead role must be played by the relevant authorities, especially the health authorities and the local government bodies in the eradication of dengue or any other epidemic for that matter. They must admit their failure with the announcement of dengue reaching an epidemic level.