Who runs the health ministry when Dengue hits the nation?

Faruque Ahmed
The entire nation has been terrorized. Mosquito menace and Dengue fever has become endemic and its spread has been reported in 62 districts out of 64. On top of it the number of Dengue patients in capital Dhaka is growing every hour and every day.
The number of death all over the country is so far closer to hundred while more than 15,000 were admitted in hospitals. Alone in 24 hours ending on Tuesday, 1365 Dengue patients were admitted to hospitals where overcrowding in absence of available seats, lack of trained physicians, hospital kits and such other logistics are making quick treatment difficult.
People have been left on floor at many hospitals. Gyne wards have been converted to Dengue ward at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and some others to allow more people to get the treatment. Report said a man at his middle age died being severely struck by Dengue on a bus seat as he was trying to reach a district hospital.
It is an emergency like situation but the government is not ready to agree to it and declare a national health emergency to develop a united resistance to the stop the spread. Awami League has called for a three-day awareness campaign by party men at all level but involving the entire social forces under the government leadership could be more effective but carefully avoided.
What surprises the nation is that the health minister’s whereabouts. He is reportedly missing from public view over the past few days when his leadership is all the more important to fight back the menace and assure the nation of the government best attention to tackle it.
His personal staff initially said he was visiting his constituency in Manikgonj but he was not visible anywhere. Some other sources then said he is in the city but mystery didn’t end. Then another source said he has gone to Malaysia with the family on a private visit and the airport immigration reportedly confirmed it.
He is scheduled to return home on August 4 as per media report. It is not clear how he could get the permission from the Prime Minister office to go out on private visit this time leaving the situation devastating at home. Many believe if the government can function without a health minister in need, then better he must vacate the seat.
Thus the entire government machinery lacks leadership at this critical time. Who runs the health ministry is the big question. There is total lack of preparation all over and especially the two city corporations have totally failed to deliver although the alert bell for the danger was in the air for quite some times.
More shocking is that the two city corporations were systematically betraying the city dwellers using poor and ineffective mosquito killer insecticides while the city officials, traders and suppliers were making hefty illegal fortune under the cover of spraying medicine. They have become den of dishonest people to mint money and the medicine procurement business of mosquito medicine top the list.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina now in London has to intervene in this situation on Tuesday asking the party leadership and the concerned authorities in video conference to import new medicine to effectively run the mosquito eradication drive. He feared more people may be affected during the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha holidays advising higher awareness at all level.
The High Court has also asked the two city corporations to appraise it by Wednesday what measures they have taken to effectively face the menace, they should give names of effective medicine they are now importing and the process they are using in such procurement.
Dengue victims so far includes at least five physicians, university students, police inspectors and such others and the number of casualties are on rise on daily basis. The situation is further worsening from growing floods and water borne diseases in most part of the country now being seriously affected.
Reports said the North City Corporation bought Tk 14 crore mosquito killer medicine and the South City purchased Tk 17.37 crore medicine in the 2018-19 fiscal ending in June this year and test reports said these were ineffective to kill normal mosquitos, least to speak about killing Ades mosquito which spread Dengue fever.
Several syndicates are controlling the business and it is an open secret amongst concerned health ministry officials but the big fishes have been always untouchable. Report said when some medicine in North City was declared unfit, traders relocate it to the South and made the fortune.
The two mayors are not the like of the former North city major Annisul Haq who had at least the energetic drive and the gut to resist irregularities. Report said in 2018, the quality of mosquito eradication medicine came up for discussion at a meeting attended by city functionaries, health ministry officials and suppliers as public outcries were denouncing failure of mosquito eradication drives.
The meeting had however decided to suppress the spraying of ineffective medicine in city mosquito eradication drives as the parliament election was looming in December last. Everybody was warned not to leak the news in the public.
Dengue is almost regularly hitting the city dwellers and people all over. But the people mandated to eradicate the menace have taken it rather as a regular way of making fortune by buying ineffective medicine at high cost without inviting tenders.
Report said over 10,148 people were attacked by Dengue fever in 2018 but the number exceeded over 15,369 even by July this year.
The death of a Dhaka University student last week from Dengue fever is agitating the varsity students. Their demand for closure of the varsity on health safety ground has been however turned down by the varsity authorities despite over two dozen reported cases of Dengue among students in different residential halls.
What make people to wonder is that why the Dhaka varsity authorities barred the holding of Namaz-e-Zanaza of the student of finance department in the campus who died from Dengue fever.
Many believe the varsity authorities feared the students could use the occasion to press for closure of the varsity on emergency basis while the authorities were not willing to give such demand to gain ground, least it may speak for severity of the Dengue crisis at national level.

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