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by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): DAP expresses grave concern at the threat to life, health and safety of 25 million Malaysians following the rise in dengue cases throughout the country that has at 24 September led to 70 deaths, more than the whole of last year. Dengue cases throughout the country rose by an ominous 26.5% this year, with 27,569 cases compared to 21,786 cases over the corresponding period last year. With 752 cases reported last week, the situation is spiraling out of control at the epidemic level of 1,000 cases per week.
Questions have been asked why such dengue epidemics have to become an annual affair that the Health Ministry despite the emphasis on preventive measures, appears powerless and ineffective. Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek must fully explain the Health Ministry’s complacency in dealing with the dengue threat and fully account for the Health Ministry’s failure in dengue preventive measures which have caused dengue to dangerously spiral out of control into a full-blown epidemic.
Unknown to Malaysians, last year 2004 saw the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history with 33,203 dengue cases, although the number of dengue deaths at 58 fatalities was not as bad as 99 and 72 for 2002 and 2003 respectively, as illustrated by the following data for the past 14 years from 1991 – 2004:
Malaysia: Number of Dengue Cases and Deaths (1999-2005)
These figures of 706 dead and 236,812 cases since 1991 present a damning indictment of the price that Malaysians have to pay for the failure and neglect of the BN government to seriously confront the dengue epidemic.
From these figures it is clear that 2002 recorded the highest number of deaths at 99 with 32,767 cases whilst 2004 recorded the highest number of cases at 33,203 with 68 deaths. Whilst the number of deaths has been declining since the record 99 deaths in 2002, the number of cases has been increasing. The declining number of deaths has probably contributed to a sense of complacency amongst Health Ministry officials that the problem is being controlled despite the increasing number of cases every year.
Such complacency and failure by the Health Ministry to reduce the number of cases has resulted in higher number of deaths this year at 70 compared to last year’s 68 despite recording 27,569 cases as compared to last year’s 33,203. The Health Ministry’s mantra that “Prevention is better than cure” was obviously preached but not practiced.
Such failure to deal with grave issues of efficiency of the government delivery system, accountability, transparency and good governance has now placed the lives of 25 million Malaysian men, women and children at risk. With such a poor record of handling the dengue epidemic over the last 15 years, how can the Malaysian public continue to place trust and confidence in the Health Ministry and its Minister to be responsible for the health and welfare of the Malaysian population?
Perhaps the time has come for the Datuk Dr Chua and the Health Ministry to admit its weaknesses and shortcomings by engaging foreign and local experts to study the dengue crisis and advise the government on the best strategy to deal with the problem.