Although dengue is an extremely preventable disease, the number of affected people is increasing dramatically. The local initiatives that I saw in the city are primarily focused on educating people and raising awareness on the prevention of the disease. Sister Fiona Castelino, nurse at Seefi Hospital in Mumbai, has been treating patients with dengue for many years and she is aware that doctors and nurses play an important role in educating the community. “We educate through lectures and continuous nursing education. We, the nurses, keep talking to people and we educate our own staff in the hospital; we go to health centers in rural areas to treat cases and to educate the people on what happens when they get the disease, and how quickly you have to go to the hospital when you have symptoms that have not subsided,” she shares.
Sister Castelino talks about the importance of educating the community
A local awareness campaign managed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) caught my attention during my week in Mumbai. They displayed banners for dengue awareness across the city, mostly in very crowded streets, on buses, and residential areas. In an interview for a local newspaper, Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner for BMC, mentioned that “there are more than 500 hoardings put up in the suburbs for our awareness programme,” They pay for the spot in some of the places, but for others (those that belong to them), they don’t have to pay anything. The advantage of these posters and billboards is public visibility.
The banners and posters are written in English and Hindi. The ones situated in residential areas also included a legal warning: “You are liable for prosecution under MMIC act if mosquito breeding is detected in your premises.” The campaign received some criticism for starting after the monsoon season (July-September), when the cases of dengue are high. This can explain why, in all the Indian cities that I’ve travelled to, this has been the only public effort I’ve seen raising awareness so far.
More on my visit in Mumbai I did some other activities during my week in the city. I went on a bicycle tour in South Mumbai, visiting flowers and vegetable markets, a fisherman’s village, and some Hindu temples. I also spent a whole morning in Dharavi, dubbed the largest slum in Asia, where I must say that I saw the most hard working, humble, and happy people. You can follow me on Twitter and check my photos on Flickr to check the highlights of this journey.