Efforts to prevent dengue fever, particularly in the south of the country, have at best been tentative. More than three months after the dengue outbreak in Phuentsholing, the health ministry is yet to declare that the outbreak has been successfully contained.
Phuentsholing hospital continues to get new cases every day although the numbers are not so overwhelming as they have been in the preceding months.
Six people succumbed to fever this year. It could have been worse; more than 4,000 positive cases have been reported so far.
There have been commendable interventions by the District Health Rapid Response Team (DHRRT) and support from the drungkhag administration, thromde, schools and educational institutes and the communities have been effective in controlling the spread of the fever.
But we are still only in the middle of November and that means our communities are still very much vulnerable. Blaming it on the “poor public response” is not enough. Lack of manpower or human resource at the hospitals is almost always the reason to cover up our failure to deal with such challenges.
This must stop. The ministry’s response stands testimony to our concerns or the lack of it. It took the ministry almost a month to react to the outbreak of the disease.
Crossborder contamination is always a threat when such outbreaks occur but the government and people of both sides did not address this threat adequately. Sometimes, there is only so much advocacy and awareness programmes can achieve. Looking beyond advocacy and awareness campaigns can be helpful so.
The cases may have declined over the months but that does not give us the reason to not do more. In fact, we must reinforce our advocacy and education campaigns until such a time that the people on both sides of the border begin to take hygiene seriously and take every precaution against such outbreaks.
The ministry finally seems to have come up with some kind of a plan to tackle the fever in the future.
Developing structured advocacy and risk communication plan, activating National Health Rapid Response Team, development of dengue operational plan for source reduction and destruction much ahead of rainy seasons, strengthening the cross-border collaboration, allocation of a budget for dengue management and outbreak response are included in the plan.
Capacity development of health workers is also being given due importance. Although it came a little too late, it is good news.
What is critically important is that these are not shelved up like most of our plans. We will be overwhelmed when the next season arrives.