Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Community Health Workers express discontent over government's inadequacy on dengue problem

August 17, 2011

“It is normal for dengue cases to rise at this time of the year.”

Where hundreds of thousands get sick by it and where hundreds die because of it at this time of the year, almost every year, is what the Department of Health (DOH) call “normal”.  When a loved one dies or gets critically ill because of dengue, is it not painful to hear from public health executives, whom the people expect to find solutions to raging epidemics, to merely call the incident normal?  “This callous statement only goes to show how complacent the DOH is on the dengue outbreak,” said Nanay Esther Solidum of Parañaque-Wide Community Health Workers’ Association.

From January 1 to August 6, reported dengue cases numbered to more than 45,000 with 34,652 in Luzon, 5,091 in Visayas, and 5,590 in Mindanao.  The total number of affected individuals is 33.5% lower than last year. 

Despite the decline, some cities and provinces in Luzon doubled the number of cases they had compared to last year.  In Ilocos Region for instance, a 222% spike in dengue cases during the first eight months of the year was reported by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).  A total of 4,665 dengue cases were recorded in the four provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, and Ilocos Norte from January to August 2 this year, 222% higher than the 1,450 cases recorded during the same period last year.

In Metro Manila, cases doubled from last year’s 5,416 to 10,487 within the same period this year.  From July 23 to August 6, the National Capital Region recorded a whopping 1,258 increase.  One-third of this is concentrated in Quezon City.

The decline from last year’s statistics should not be seen as an improvement on the government’s end, lamented NanayLuzviminda Solayao, a community health worker from Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, Manila and president of AHON-Isla, a people’s organization of urban poor settlers in Tondo.  “One death is too many, one outbreak is too many.  It is unacceptable to have this disease kill hundreds every year and yet our government does not do anything to significantly eradicate the problem,” said Solayao.

According to Solayao, one characteristic that places where dengue has been declared an outbreak is that these communities are poor and people’s economic and political capacities are low such as in Tondo and Parañaque.  Dengue Express Lanes cannot suffice to address the escalating problem either, she said.
“Mosquitoes are not the only culprits for the deaths of dengue victims,” Solidum added.  She explained that since majority of the patients come from impoverished families, they cannot afford to pay for procedures such as complete blood count with monitoring of the platelet count (decreasing count is alarming) nor can they afford to pay for needed laboratory procedures for blood transfusion.
The community health workers vowed to launch series of peaceful mass actions in different cities to call on the government to take decisive actions in eliminating outbreaks and ensuring that patients are accorded free health services in public hospitals.##

 References:  Philip Paraan – 0919.4861580 / (632) 725.4760 
  Kat Berza – 0927.9259413 / (632) 929.8109 (Telefax)

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