Fighting the Chikungunya epidemic
Mass awareness campaigns with live events and radio announcements
With the begin of the hurricane season in the Caribbean, the region’s residents face multiple threats: not only the extreme weather itself, but also viral epidemics such as cholera, dengue, and most recently, chikungunya, a mostly non-deadly but very debilitating infection which is transmitted by mosquitos.
Since the chikungunya virus was first documented in Haiti in May, there have been nearly 40,000 suspected cases seen by health workers, the Pan American Health Organization says. The actual number of cases in the country is expected to be a lot higher, since many people still lack access to health facilities.
Just like dengue, the chikungunya virus spreads through mosquitos of the Aedes variety, which breed in standing water. “During the rainy season, water accumulates everywhere, making it very difficult to control the mosquito population,” program manager Jelena Kaifenheim says. “And in Haiti, where many people live in precarious housing and slum-like areas, without access to sewage systems, these areas can be ideal breeding grounds for the mosquitos.”
In order to combat the spread of the disease, Malteser International conducts mass awareness campaigns which include live events and radio announcements. “What can we do to combat those mosquitoes? Don’t leave any recipients with open water in or around your home, keep everything clean, always cover water buckets, sleep under a mosquito net and wear long clothes,” the radio spot announced. “How can we recognize this disease? High fever, strong headache, strong pain in body and bones, itching. If you have fever and any one of the other symptoms, go to a health center immediately.”
An event held on June 1 to prepare the population for the start of the hurricane season together with the local Civil Protection authority (DPC) mobilized more than 15,000 people in Léogâne. In addition, Malteser International helped train 50 health and community agents of the local health authority on dengue and chinkungunya prevention. The project counts on financial support from Germany’s Federal Foreign Office.