Eleven-year-old Fahim fights against deadly dengue
Children in Bangladesh face an imminent crisis as cases rise at an alarming rate
Fahim lays on the bed next to his mother, as nurses tend to his fever brought on by dengue. He has had this fever for the last nine days.
“It hurts my entire body. It’s difficult to move or do things in this state,” he says, as he laments about missing out on important classes while getting treated for dengue at the hospital.
Eleven-year-old Fahim is a diligent student at a local religious school, who contracted dengue when stagnant pools of water near the school served as a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes.
As his condition worsened, Fahim's worried mother Jesmin recognised the symptoms and brought him to Shaheed Ahsanullah Master General Hospital in Tongi, Gazipur, where medical staff and nurses attended to him and gave him the necessary treatment.
"Fahim’s condition is improving, but I wish we could have gotten him admitted quicker. The queues are too long due to so many patients getting admitted with dengue." Jesmin says as she checks her son’s temperature with her hand.
An escalating crisis
As the dengue outbreak continues to grip Bangladesh, it poses a severe public health challenge, impacting children and communities across the nation. The global challenge of changing climatic conditions and increasing global warming further exacerbate the spread of vector-borne diseases like dengue, particularly in countries at risk.
According to data from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), since January 2023, almost forty-five thousand cases of dengue have been reported in Bangladesh, with more than two hundred fatalities. Both these numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate as the outbreak spreads to all 64 districts in the country, posing a significant threat to children.
The DGHS data also states that 29% of the reported cases are children, emphasizing their vulnerability to the disease. Fahim is among the thousands of children whose lives are at risk due to the increasing number of dengue cases all over the country.
Protecting communities through prevention
The hospital Fahim has been admitted to has become a crucial hub in Tongi for providing medical care and support to dengue patients - an important part of which is creating awareness in them and their families regarding preventing and mitigating dengue in their respective communities.
“As part of our daily practice, we try to advise and follow up with patients on how they can take care to prevent dengue in their neighbourhoods and what they can do to reduce its spread,” says Dr. Mohammad Tarik Hasan, Residential Medical Officer at the hospital.
The hospital's response to the outbreak is aligned with UNICEF's Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) initiatives which aim to raise awareness about dengue prevention and empower communities to take preventive measures.
UNICEF, in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh and other partners, is working tirelessly to combat the dengue outbreak, primarily focusing on implementing RCCE initiatives which involve disseminating life-saving messages through various means, such as public announcements by miking, distributing leaflets, and leveraging social media platforms.
Religious and community leaders are also actively being mobilized by UNICEF through Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh to empower people with accurate and actionable information. Young individuals are being engaged as agents of change within their communities to spread awareness about the importance of preventive measures in reducing the spread of dengue.
The response to the dengue outbreak also necessitates long-term solutions and prevention practices to ensure that the disease can be controlled in the future. UNICEF is working together with partners to implement long-term interventions in the Health and WASH sectors - Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. These interventions range from building capacities, providing technical support and delivering critical supplies.
Cooperation for change
Fahim's battle against dengue reflects the collective urgency and need to address the situation across Bangladesh. UNICEF is fully committed to collaborating with the Government of Bangladesh and other partners to effectively respond to the dengue outbreak and work together to mitigate its impact on vulnerable communities, particularly children. The fight against dengue is a united effort, where we all play a crucial role together in breaking the chain of transmission and ensuring a safer and healthier future for all.