By Arun Kumar Singhal
Come the monsoons and the greenery in the hills sprout and so do the vector borne diseases (VBDs) like Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya. Monsoon rains offer more breeding grounds for the mosquito that carries the VBD virus. In India, vector borne disease cases usually peak during and just after the rainy season, which normally lasts from June to September.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito menace in the Doon and other parts of the state in the recent years has risen. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main vector that transmits the viruses that cause dengue. The viruses pass on to humans through the bites of an infective female Aedes mosquito, which mainly acquires the virus while feeding on the blood of an infected person.
While nature takes its course, lack of awareness and proper cleanliness are the major causes that have contributed to the spurt in vector borne diseases. Detailed information about dengue can be obtained through the integrated help line number 104.
What coaxed me to write this piece was a strange phenomenon I saw. Many may have noticed what I will be narrating. While it is the duty of the civic authorities to keep a vigil on the cleanliness drive in their respective areas, some private agencies and people in the Doon are these days making hay while the sun shines by reaching out to each household in different localities for fogging in residences. One such group of people knocked on my gate too to undertake fogging to check mosquitoes.
For a moment it impressed me, as I thought the Nagar Nigam was trying to rid us of the mosquitoes by sending their dedicated team to every house for fogging and spraying of larvicides, only to realise it was a private anti-mosquito mission for a fee.
On the face of it, there is nothing wrong if one gets insecticides sprayed on one’s own but there are questions that need to be addressed. The first is of security. Are the fellows accessing residences genuine or coming with an ulterior motive of theft as they do not have any authorisation from the civic authorities or represent any pesticide agency? Secondly, who know the fogging and spraying is as per set standards and done with the specified insecticide? Above all, why should one need to pay for the basic services that are the responsibility of the civic authorities to keep their region ‘swachh’ (clean) and ‘swastha’ (healthy)?
While commitment at all levels is essential for prevention and control of these diseases and it is also true the success of the vector control programme is better through community participation and ownership, but the initiative should be that of the civic and health authorities, as health is a State subject in the Constitution. The National Health Mission is the largest public health programme of Government of India. In such a scenario, the responsibility of providing a ‘swachh and swastha’ surrounding rests on the State.
The civic authorities can call for a collective effort and active people’s participation to make sure drives like cleanliness are effective, but it should not shun its basic responsibility. Already, the fogging operations by the Nagar Nigam are scanty all over the valley and cleanliness too at many places is deplorable.
While the civic authorities need to pull up their socks to fulfill their mission, they also need to aggressively launch awareness generation drives, which are almost missing, among locals on the ways to check the spread of the disease. More importantly, slum dwellers need to be educated on a war footing on the importance of cleanliness, as slums are most prone to vector borne diseases. The school children should also be educated on cleanliness. Asha workers and volunteers can help in education and awareness generation.
The Information, Education and Communication campaigns are already in place, however, their proper and timely implementation is needed.
Various sophisticated tools like satellite remote sensing, geographic information system, etc., being correlated with mathematical model provide a fine resolution map based on the ecological niche and potential risk of disease. The spatial information providing the data integration network in combination with distribution of resources for human environment interaction could be an effective control measure for various vector borne diseases. The risk factors associated with the vector borne diseases can be ascertained in the model with the ultimate effect of prevention of the disease. So technology should be harnessed to the fullest.
To still better the various initiatives launched, its time the State revisits the policies framed many years ago and those that need changes to keep in tune with the present time and local needs.
(The writer is an author, journalist and social worker based in Dehradun).