It is feared that a massive outbreak of epidemics will follow the prevailing rains and the attendant floods. The monsoon on the horizon will aggravate an already bad situation. Besides the mass displacement, loss of life and damage to property caused by floods, diseases that usually come in their wake are sure to have a heavy toll on public health. The incidence of dengue is very likely to get a turbo boost from the current rains and floods.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has, addressing the inaugural meeting of the presidential task force to battle dengue, stressed the need to mobilise the whole country for eradicating the disease. All citizens from the Head of State downwards should join hands to achieve that goal, he has said. It is a matter for happiness that the President himself has taken the lead in the battle against the insidious killer and his involvement in the project will help rally the people very effectively.
What has stood in the way of the on-going dengue eradication programmes is not lack of public awareness. Sri Lankans are more than aware of the danger of dengue. We do not think there is a single household that has not been affected by the disease. Someone known to each and every one of us has either suffered from the disease or died of it. Even a kindergartener will tell us how the disease is transmitted, the life cycle of mosquito vectors, symptoms etc. But, most of us take our collective responsibility for preventing the disease for granted.
Campaigns aimed at eradicating dengue and other diseases with public participation usually come a cropper. That may be the reason why the need has arisen for the State to make it mandatory for the public to destroy mosquito breeding places in their houses and gardens or face penalties. But, laws are of no use unless they are strictly implemented. Sri Lankans usually do not obey laws if they do not fear that they are being watched. A motorist once drove through the red light at a busy intersection causing others to let out expletives so goes a story that tells us a great deal of our respect for the law right into the hands of an exasperated traffic policeman on the other side, who thundered, `Didn`t you see the red light?` Our man meekly stammered, `I saw the red light but not you.` So, in dealing with Sri Lankans, laws alone won`t do.
The most effective way of jolting the public into supporting a national effort to wipe out dengue by keeping their houses and environs clean is to make mosquito breeding` an expensive pastime . Penalties must be increased and regular raids conducted.
Who will guard the guards? As much as the members of the general public, all the local government authorities are responsible for having zillions of mosquito-breeding places in areas under their jurisdiction. Only a section of the network of open drains full of stagnant water in Colombo is sufficient for all the dengue mosquitoes in the city to be bred. The same goes for all other local government areas in the country. No campaign to eradicate dengue will reach fruition unless action is taken to make MCs, UCs and Pradeshiya Sabhas fall in line and practise what they preach to others. They, in our book, are the biggest culprits.
We suggest that the President sack the head of any local government institution if found incapable of keeping his area free from mosquito breeding places as well as heaps of garbage. Let the first task of the presidential task force be inspecting local government areas and reporting errant politicians and bureaucrats to the President for action.
Meanwhile, President Rajapaksa should make sure that the much advertised bacteria to destroy dengue are brought from Cuba forthwith. It has been an inordinately long wait for those micro organisms! The sooner, the better!