Bangkok, 24 July 2023 – A dengue outbreak across Asia is putting children at risk and the situation will worsen in the coming weeks, with floods, heat waves and the potential impacts of El Niño weather creating perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes, Save the Children has warned.
Bangladesh is facing its worst dengue outbreak in five years, with a huge increase in hospital admissions and 22,000 cases, including 24 children, and 114 deaths so far this year. Thailand recorded 36,000 cases from January to July – four times the number of cases reported at the same time last year.
Countries like Malaysia and Cambodia have also recorded an increase in the number of dengue cases compared to 2022. Malaysia has reported 54,100 cases so far this year, a 149% increase from last year.
In Nepal, dengue fever is now reported at much higher altitudes due to warmer weather that can speed up the mosquito’s reproductive cycle.
Dengue is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti or yellow fever mosquito and can cause flu-like symptoms including high fever, severe headache and body aches, and in extreme cases can lead to organ failure and death.
Children between the ages of five and 14 were the most affected. They are susceptible to disease because their immune systems are weaker than adults and they play outside in areas with less protection from mosquitoes.
A changing climate and more frequent and extreme weather events — severe monsoon floods and high temperatures currently affecting countries in Asia — are fueling the spread of mosquitoes, which means more dengue seasons and a wider geographic distribution of the disease. Floods, storm surges, and sea level rise can increase mosquito populations because they provide shallow, stagnant water bodies in which to breed.
The World Health Organization has also warned that the impact of the current El Niño weather pattern, which is predicted to trigger extreme weather events including droughts and floods in Asia, could increase the spread of diseases such as dengue fever.
Globally, there has been a 30-fold increase in the number of dengue cases in the last 50 years. It is also estimated that 70 percent of the 3.9 billion people at risk of dengue live in Asia-Pacific.
Dr Yasir Arafat, Senior Health and Nutrition Advisor, Save the Children said.
“Across Asia, extreme weather events are disrupting the lives of children, and this alarming increase in severe dengue outbreaks is just one more problem affecting their physical and mental health. As climate change and the predicted impacts of an El Niño event threaten to cause more extreme weather across the region, the situation could worsen.
“A holistic approach to tackling bullying can save children’s lives. Health workers should be trained and equipped to diagnose and treat dengue.
“We must see an increase in funding and resources for solutions that better anticipate extreme weather and other impacts globally and place children’s rights at the heart of every response.”
Across Asia, Save the Children provides public health care to children and their families, including treatment and jobs for diseases such as dengue fever.With schools and communities to improve awareness of how to prevent infection. The agency also works in partnership with the World Mosquito Program in some countrieselp reduces dengue transmission.
Notes to editors
- As of June 8, 2023, an El Niño event has been declared and paints a worrying picture for children around the world. El Niño is a temporary, natural warming of parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that can cause extreme weather events globally – from severe droughts, wildfires and heat waves to deadly floods and tropical storms.
- Although El Niño events are natural and cyclical, the impact is exacerbated by the climate crisis. This El Niño will cause a new spike in global warming. Scientists predict that one of the next five years will be the hottest ever.
- The data mentioned in this document is accurate till 19 July 2023.
Dr. Yasir Arafat will be available for interview. For further inquiries please contact:
Media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409
- Emily White – Emily.Wight@savethechildren.org (based in London)
- Sacha Myers – Sacha.firstname.lastname@example.org (based in Bangkok)
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