Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Role of Civil Society in Control of Mosquito Borne Diseases

Effective engagement of civil society is crucial if the world is to win the battle against mosquito borne diseases. Upsurges in vector borne diseases in the 1940s and 1960s were controlled mainly by chemical controls like fogging and spraying. However, this single focus approach may not succeed today. Rather, successful vector control strategy must focus on an integrated approach. Targeted environment management and the introduction of biological controls must be a part of the overall vector control strategy. Civil society can play a key role in both awareness creation and implementation.

Aedes aegypti, which causes dengue and chikungunya, flourish in urban settings. The larvae are found in large concentrations in artificial water containers near human habitats. The Government’s well publicised awareness campaigns have already spelt out the steps needed to control vector breeding. The solutions for targeting mosquito ecosystems are simple and inexpensive. Civil society must consider it their social responsibility to start implementing the dos-and-don’ts rigorously. Covering domestic water storage containers with tight lids or mesh and planting more trees to prevent water from collecting on the ground are doable goals for every family unit. Waste management is an important aspect of environment management. Correct disposal methods must be inculcated as damp organic matter, discarded containers, coconut shells are all potential larvae habitats. Better waste management is possible only with an enlightened civil society that cares for the common good.

In countries like Vietnam and Tanzania, civil society and the scientific community have come together to promote the use of biological controls to bring about long term reduction in disease transmission. Community participation helped scientists in Vietnam to successfully introduce a crustacean Mesocyclops (Copepoda) into domestic water tanks and storage containers. Copepoda feed on newly hatched Aedes aegypti larvae. The campaign involved local health workers, school children and community leaders. The combination of enthusiastic civil society participation and an effective biological control helped eliminate the dengue fever in a 380,000 strong community in northern and central Vietnam.

Community participation and civil society engagement is critical if incidence and transmission of vector borne diseases are to be reduced in an eco-friendly, environmentally sustainable manner. Prevention of breeding and targeting the larvae are important fronts in the fight against vector borne diseases and it is here that we, the people, can play an important role. 

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