“Climate Change, Crime and Political Chaos: A Deadly Mix in Honduras Dengue Epidemic” (New York Times)
More than 400 people died this year as one of the worst dengue epidemics on record swept through Central America — a type of outbreak that some scientists and public health officials are warning is likely to become more frequent and more widespread because of climate change.
But while climate change is threatening to increase the spread of dengue worldwide by expanding the range of the mosquitoes that carry the virus, the disease has already found an especially fertile breeding ground in Honduras, for reasons that go beyond the environment.
Report Kirk Semple identifies a number of factors that have contributed to these staggering numbers of dengue deaths:
- absence of policies and systems to adequately address dengue and other diseases (and, relatedly, political unrest that has prevented such steps from being taken);
- climate change that has led to increased availability of stagnant water for mosquitoes to breed;
- gangs that have prevented certain neighbourhoods from receiving access to aid and medicine;
- apathy among the population, given the many other stressors that the most vulnerable parts of the population face.
The deaths were entirely preventable. This is the sheer tragedy of wasted lives.
“In another country there would be many sick but not as many deaths,” said Eduardo Ortíz, an adviser on sustainable development and environmental health for the Pan American Health Organization in Honduras. “The cure for dengue is political.”