A Yemeni nonprofit working in six provinces to prevent the spread of dengue fever, through monitoring, education and mosquito control, has been having some success in containing its spread, officials told Al-Mashareq.
Al-Awn Foundation for Development has been conducting a dengue fever control and treatment project with help from local authorities and $2 million in funding from Saudi Arabia's King Salman Centre for Humanitarian Aid and Relief.
"Early indications show the project’s implementation in the six targeted provinces has achieved several successes," project director Dr. Yasser Baheshem told Al-Mashareq.
There have been eight dengue fever-related deaths so far this year, he said, down from 78 in 2016 and 112 in 2015.
"The number of dengue fever infection cases in 2015 was 23,000 cases and 14,000 in 2016," he said.
An epidemiological monitoring system has been established to detect the disease in the six provinces hardest hit by the epidemic: Hadramaut, Shabwa, Aden, Lahj, Taez and al-Hodeidah.
The project began in April and will continue through November, he said, adding that work would continue until all targeted districts were covered.
Fumigation teams at work
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, dengue is caused by any one of four related viruses transmitted by mosquitoes.
There are not yet any vaccines to prevent infection with dengue virus, and the most effective protective measures are those that avoid mosquito bites.
When infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment can substantially lower the risk of medical complications and death.
"Fumigation teams began the second phase of the fumigation drive to fight dengue fever in late August in the provinces of Aden and Taez and the cities of Burum and al-Shihr in Hadramaut," Baheshem said.
"The fumigation drives target public streets, low-income neighbourhoods and areas presumed to be breeding grounds for mosquitoes that transmit dengue," he said.
Additionally, he said, "the project has trained doctors on dengue fever treatment protocol and 30 fumigation workers in every targeted district".
Campaigns to raise awareness about the disease and how it spreads also were conducted, with the participation of mosque imams and school teachers.
Medical monitoring system
A medical monitoring system has been established "that involves training 30 health workers in each province on the mechanisms of epidemiological monitoring and laboratory testing for dengue fever", Baheshem said.
In each province, he said, 15 technicians have received training on insect detection.
"The project formed a response team in each district, whose members are paid monthly incentives by the foundation," he said.
Each three-person team monitors, tests and verifies new cases, he explained: One team member is assigned to monitor dengue fever cases, another to conduct laboratory tests and another to focus on insect detection.
"The project also included the supply of laboratory equipment for testing and diagnosis of dengue fever and malaria," he said, as well as the purchase of 30 fumigators, fumigation supplies and safety equipment for each province.
"Dengue fever control activities are being implemented in four Wadi Hadramaut districts, as they are the hardest hit by the epidemic," said Hadramaut deputy governor Abd al-Hadi al-Tamimi.
Reinforcing preventive measures
The project is achieving its objectives thanks to the tremendous co-operation of the medical staff of the Wadi Hadramaut Health Office and efforts of al-Awn Foundation for Development, he told Al-Mashareq.
Al-Tamimi said conducting the fumigation campaigns in all districts of the province reinforces other preventive measures taken against dengue fever.
"The shortfall in resources is the reason the fumigation campaigns are not conducted in all districts of the province -- an undertaking that requires $30 million," he said.
In Shabwa province, the health situation "is under control with regard to dengue fever", said Shabwa deputy governor Nasser al-Qamishi.
"The fumigation in targeted districts started at the beginning of the high temperature season at the end of April," he told Al-Mashareq.
This has had an impact on the mosquitoes that transmit the disease, he said.