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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Red Cross scales up dengue prevention

Red Cross
Red Cross

Red Cross scales up dengue prevention, mitigation & awareness, as the death toll surpasses 300, with over 105,000 people affected

As the number of dengue cases tops 105,000 in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are rapidly scaling up emergency assistance to help contain one of the country’s worst-ever outbreak of dengue in recent times.

The Ministry of Health reports that the number of dengue infections is at 105,153 since the start of 2017, with over 301 deaths. The number of cases this year is already nearly double the number of dengue infections recorded in all of 2016, when 55,150 people were diagnosed with the disease.

Accordingly, the Sri Lanka Red Cross has allocated 50 million Sri Lankan Rupees (approx.) through the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund of the IFRC, to scale up dengue awareness activities in the next few months. These funds will aim to support over 310,000 people in severely affected districts of Colombo, Gampaha &Kalutara.

“Dengue is endemic here, but one reason for the dramatic rise in cases is that the virus currently spreading has evolved and people lack the immunity to fight off the new strain,” says Dr Novil Wijesekara, from the Health Department at the Sri Lanka Red Cross.

Compounding the crisis, recent monsoon rains and floods have left pools of stagnant water and rotting rain soaked trash—ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes. 

Ongoing downpours and worsening sanitation conditions raise concerns the disease will continue to spread. Teams of Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers have been supporting a large-scale government effort to stem the outbreak—providing patient care at hospitals and going door-to-door with public health inspectors to raise awareness about the disease, its symptoms and how to prevent its spread. Volunteers have also been helping authorities to identify and clean sites where mosquitoes are breeding.

In coordination with government partners, Red Cross teams are set to expand patient care at six priority hospitals and improve or install water and sanitation at nine medical facilities.

Additional teams of volunteers will be trained to identify and eliminate vector breeding sites, and then deploy to 72 vulnerable communities to lead household, school and community information and clean-up campaigns.

“The size of this dengue outbreak is unprecedented in Sri Lanka,” says Jagath Abeysinghe, President of Sri Lanka Red Cross. “It will require a united front in support of the government’s prevention and control programme and committed community action to tackle it.”

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