Ramping up dengue response by expanding access to testing kits
Navigating through the challenges of the dengue outbreak in Bangladesh
Twelve-year-old Shourov had been suffering from high fever for two days. Despite his mother's best efforts to provide him with treatment and care at home, Shourov’s condition showed no signs of improvement. He was diagnosed with dengue and was immediately admitted to Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master General Hospital in Tongi, Gazipur, when his parents got him tested for dengue at the hospital.
Challenges in managing a health crisis
“We often grapple with a shortage of human resources, making it challenging to manage all our duties while providing treatment and care to each patient. However, despite these obstacles, at the end of the day we feel satisfied about the fact that we have been able to conduct timely tests for our patients. Having a steady supply of testing kits has played a crucial role in ensuring that our patients receive the treatment they need after getting diagnosed," said Dr. Anjum Ara Begum, the pediatric ward in charge at Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master General Hospital.
Bangladesh is experiencing a severe dengue outbreak and cases are being reported from all 64 districts in the country. Children are prone to getting sicker if early detection and treatment is not provided. However, due to the lack of sufficient kits for dengue tests in many hospitals, appropriate measures for treatment often get delayed. To address the demand, UNICEF has delivered urgently needed testing kits to hospitals across Bangladesh, including Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master General Hospital, through the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) under the Directorate General of Health Services.
Shourov was among the 44 children who had tested positive for dengue and were admitted to the hospital during the first three weeks of September. As dengue cases surged, the diarrhea ward was repurposed into a dedicated unit for critical dengue child patients where they all received treatment initially. Children were moved to the general dengue ward after showing signs of improvement, including Shourov who responded well to the treatment.
A family’s journey of dealing with dengue
After five days of treatment, Shourov was ready to get discharged, a moment he had eagerly awaited. When asked what he missed the most during his hospital stay, he said, "I miss going to school and playing with my friends after classes." His mother shared that Shourov loved going to school and never missed his classes but had been unable to attend school for one week due to dengue.
As a garment worker, she had been on leave for a week to care for her son. "I managed to get leave, but I keep getting calls from my workplace asking me to return. I will have to stay home with him for at least two more days to ensure he fully recovers as he still feels weak.”
Mohammed Shopon, Shourov’s father, owns a small shop located near their home. It remained closed throughout the period his child was at the hospital as there was no one to run the shop during his absence, resulting in significant losses, "I had no choice but to be with my child at the hospital to ensure he received the prescribed treatment."
Talking about the family’s precautions against dengue, Shourov's mother explained how she tried to keep their home clean and free from stagnant water, eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes. However, she admitted that they only started using mosquito nets after her child had fallen ill. Now, she made it a routine to hang the mosquito net whenever they slept and would continue this practice in the future to protect her family from dengue.
Collaborative approach to control dengue
Swift diagnosis, along with appropriate treatment, is crucial for recovering from dengue and getting back to normal life. Since the onset of the dengue crisis, UNICEF has delivered critical medical supplies, including testing kits with over 126,000 tests, and is also supporting the Government with building capacities of healthcare staff, providing technical advice, and implementing actions such as campaigns to clean up breeding sites, engaging communities, raising awareness about dengue prevention, and taking necessary preventive measures.
“UNICEF’s support in supplying the dengue tests has been instrumental in managing the surge in cases. Their timely delivery has been a lifesaver for our community. Receiving these tests at such a critical time is helping us to meet the demand for dengue testing without any shortage,” said Dr. Jahangir Alam, the Hospital Director. He also thanked UNICEF for working closely with the Gazipur City Corporation to raise awareness about dengue prevention, empowering the community with preventive measures.
However, he cautioned that if the current situation persisted for another 2-3 months, additional support and a new supply of tests would become imperative as without that the hospital might face shortages.
In response to the growing demand for additional support in the provision of dengue tests, UNICEF intends to deliver tests to CDC as needed. UNICEF is dedicated to collaborating with the Government of Bangladesh and partners to offer essential assistance in mitigating the impact of dengue on vulnerable communities, especially children. The coordination between government partners, organizations like UNICEF, and communities along with increased household responsibility is conducive to effective and sustained dengue control.
UNICEF wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for their contribution in supporting the dengue response in Bangladesh.