By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - The Philippines is fighting deadly dengue viral disease which killed more than 600 people in the first seven months of 2019, a humanitarian aid organization said Friday.
The country last week declared a national emergency to fight the spread of the disease described as “mosquito-borne viral infection causing a severe flu-like illness and sometimes causing a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Speaking to Anadolu Agency from the Philippines’ capital Manila, Dannis Amata, a spokesman for the international humanitarian organization CARE, said: "Government data showed us that more than 146,000 cases of dengue were recorded [in hospitals] from Jan. 1 to July 31 this year triggering a national emergency."
“The figure [of dengue cases] is 98% higher than the same period in 2018,” Amata said.
The deceased were mostly children, he added, citing government data.
The WHO says that dengue is a “rapidly emerging pandemic-prone viral disease in many parts of the world, including in the Western Pacific Region”.
The CARE official said that they found stagnant water in rural areas and periphery provinces to be a major cause of the fatal disease.
"Philippines falls in tropical zone which brings most rains," Amata said. "We have been witnessing continuous rains which leads to stagnation of water from where the disease takes its roots."
Mosquitoes lay eggs where water is stagnant, and it gives rise to the disease, he explained. Philippines naturally witnesses rains from May to September.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the government had enough funds but lacked adequate number of doctors to fight the disease.
“[…] Of course, the cure of a national epidemic is to treat the patients. Our problem might be that there might be not enough doctors and hospitals if they’re deluged with patients suffering from the same,” the daily Manila Bulletin quoted Panelo as saying at a press briefing on Thursday.
- Situation alarming in Bangsamoro region
Amata told Anadolu Agency that situation was alarming in the autonomous Bangsamoro region in the Muslim Mindanao island in the southern Philippines.
"The alert has already been crossed, it has now touched 2,301 cases in the region," he said. "The local government told us that number is increasing."
He said that lots of people in the region were displaced two years back because of the Marawi siege. "The internal displacement has made people vulnerable to such diseases."
David Gazashvili, country director of CARE Philippines, said: “We are alarmed by the increasing number of dengue cases in the Philippines. We are concerned about the exposure to dengue-infected mosquitoes of the internally displaced people in our project areas especially those who live in tents and temporary shelters.”
Amata said that CARE is helping the government in "fogging" the critical areas so that the "flies spreading dengue die".
The government of Rodrigo Duterte has come under criticism for inaction.
A former health official and Deputy Minority Leader Janette Garin said: “The Department of Health’s seeming band-aid solution to the problem is to distribute dengue kits that may contain mosquito repellent or net, soaps, a thermometer, anti-pyretic tablets and other items that may alleviate the symptoms of dengue.”