By Jerry Francis
The serious threat posed by Dengue may after all be ‘a blessing in disguise’ for the country. It has resulted in the entire government machinery taking affirmative action against the mosquito-borne disease.
Although various effective measures are being looked into, such as releasing genetically-modified mosquitoes, the need to create a clean and healthy environment for all will have to be given priority and the massive move will no doubt pave the way throughout the nation.
Punishing owners of premises with bigger fines and jail term under the Control of Communicable Diseases Act and the Destruction of Disease Bearing Insect Act for ‘breeding’ Aedes larvae will not effectively control the disease. What about the pools of stagnant water, clogged drains and rubbish dumps in public places and construction sites? Will local authorities, large corporations and construction firms be fined too for failing to clear them?
The fight against Dengue therefore needs to expand to include all possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes nationwide. Thus, it means that the country needs to be generally clean and tidy.
The federal government’s recent move to rope in all Menteri Besars, ministers, state secretaries, district officers and district health officers to form committees on Dengue at various levels is seen as a positive action.
The question is: can the committees effectively carry out their task? Let’s hope they will not fizzle away just like all the decisions taken in the past, following an outbreak of a disease or after a disaster. An example is the proposal last year to set up task force teams in every district in Perak on a search and destroy mission of mosquito breeding grounds.
Certainly, I do not expect this massive combined effort against Dengue will suffer the same fate since the threat of Dengue is very serious in Malaysia. Between January and early October, a total of 38,330 people have been infected with Dengue, which also claimed 117 lives.
The fact that the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is heading the national-level committee on Dengue shows the federal government is making a determined move to combat the disease.
Within Ipoh City alone, it was once estimated there were over 20,000 illegal dumping grounds, which are potential mosquitoes’ breeding sites. Just imagine the magnitude of the problem as each rubbish dump contains empty bottles, tin cans, plastic containers and other items that could accumulate water and breed mosquitoes.
All these illegal dumps must be cleared first if the fight against Dengue is to be successful. I am not blaming the city council for the illegal rubbish dumps; it is the residents and their attitudes that have created them.
The city council made many attempts to clear the dumps, but only to find new ones being created at the same sites within days after being cleared. Some residents even feel that as long as rubbish is not thrown within their vicinities, they and their families are safe. As a result they are seen daily throwing plastic bags of rubbish outside their housing estates while on their way to work.
Even those in the so-called affluent areas, such as Ipoh-Canning Garden, have been seen dumping rubbish indiscriminately. The fact that these illegal dumps are sources for diseases is not their concern. Yet, they will readily blame the local authorities whenever there is an outbreak of disease in their areas.
It is about time the city council makes good on its threat to send out enforcement officers in plain clothes to arrest those responsible for such acts. Make an example by charging them in the courts. Failing to do so will only encourage these people to continue to dump the rubbish and blame the city council for not clearing them.
The residents need to realise that it is important to live in a clean and healthy environment. They have an obligation to society to take care of their surroundings and guard against indiscriminate throwing of rubbish so that everyone can live in a cleaner and healthier environment that is free from diseases.