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Few get pushed over dengue threat

October 14, 2012

RAWALPINDI, Oct 14: Orders ‘from above’ might have pushed the local departments into action to prevent a dengue fever outbreak in the city, but the people down below don’t feel pushed, according to the district health department.

Last week, an entomologist of the department reported to the executive district officer health that she was denied entry into a private school she went to inspect whether it had complied with the instructions issued to educational institutions regarding the anti-dengue campaign.

“You better talk to the EDO Health,” entomologist Sadia Rehman told Dawn when contacted.

EDO Dr Zafar Iqbal Gondal confirmed her statement and said that “most of the private educational institutions did not allow our teams into their campuses”.

Other sources quoted Ms Rehman reporting that when she reached the Barkat Model School in Khayaban-i-Sir Syed, the principal did not let her team in to check sanitary conditions in the private school.

She said the school, with more than 200 students on its rolls, did not present a neat and tidy look from outside.

“I tried to argue with the principal but she would not agree to an inspection and suggested spraying disinfectants by my team around the school building would be enough,” the entomologist told her boss.

All private schools and colleges in Rawalpindi were sent letters by the district health department last month to disinfect their spaces to prevent breeding of the dangerous dengue mosquitoes, with the threat that they will face punitive action under the Local Government Ordinance 2001 if they did not.

“We offered them to train their staff in spraying techniques. The district health department entomologist had to visit the campuses and inspect whether the educational institutions had done the job or not,” said Dr Gondal.

President of the Private Schools and College Owners Association Malik Ibrar, however, was not aware of the letter. In any case, he did not think it was the responsibility of schools to prevent dengue threat.

“I have not seen any letter issued by the provincial government or health department,” he told Dawn. “But, I make it clear that the government can do this work better than the private schools administrations.”

“What educational institutions can do is create awareness among the people why precautionary steps are necessary,” he said.

“On our part we see to it that private schools and colleges ensure neat and clean environment on their premises.”

Parents on the other hand demand that the government ensure effective fumigation in private institutions in order to avoid any unpleasant situation.

EDO Health Dr Gondal said that after many school managements refused entry to his inspectors, his department wrote to the district coordination officer to take action against the uncooperative educational institutions.

A health department official told Dawn that the letter for taking anti-dengue precautions had gone to over 200 private schools and colleges in the district. He said the department had deployed 160 persons for the anti-polio vaccination drive in the city twice in the last month.

Because of the shortage of staff, the anti-dengue teams could not inspect many private schools. The teams could visit mostly the schools located in the vicinity of the health department’s office at Khayban-i-Sir Syed.