Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteer, Saumya Sanesha (right), gets ready for dengue information campaign. Photo Credit: Sri Lanka Red Cross Society
by Mahieash Johnney, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society
Saumya Sanesha reads a headline in one of the local newspapers which says, “Worst dengue outbreak in Sri Lanka; 298 deaths.” As she heads out the door, she thinks about the importance her day’s assignment and all the people in her community whose lives are at risk.
Saumya, 16, is a Junior Red Cross Circle member in Gampaha District, one of the areas hardest hit by a spiralling dengue outbreak in Sri Lanka. She has volunteered to be part of a Sri Lanka Red Cross Society team that will join government public health inspectors to scout for breeding sites of mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus. She’ll also be explaining to villagers how to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Going door to door and informing people about how to keep their homes and environments free of dengue is so crucial right now,” says Saumya.
Dengue is endemic in Sri Lanka, but the number of people infected in less than seven months of this year is already almost double the number of cases that were reported in all of 2016.
The government of Sri Lanka is leading a nationwide effort to clear communities of mosquito breeding sites, educate the public on how to be safe and expand health services for dengue patients.
The Sri Lanka Red Cross is supporting all components of the programme and Saumya and other youth volunteers are an important part of the response.
“When I go to people’s homes, I give them leaflets about the disease, inform them what the main symptoms are and what they should do if they suspect they have dengue,” says Saumya. “These things are important to save lives.”