Dominican Army Joins Government Agencies in Fight against Zika-carrying Mosquito
By Dialogo April 13, 2016
The Dominican Republic's Army (ERD) said it attained excellent results from its cooperative campaign with other government institutions in recent months to fight the Aedes Aegypti
mosquito, which is responsible for spreading the Zika, dengue, and chikingunya viruses throughout the country. The operations centered on the capital of Santo Domingo and its peripheral areas, as well as the provinces of San Cristóbal, Azua, Pedernales, Independencia, Elías Piña, Dajabón, and Montecristi.
From January 25th until the end of March, the ERD coordinated with Ministry of Public Health, provincial governors, and mayors to conduct epidemiological monitoring throughout the operation. “[It's been] a great success for us,” Colonel Puro De la Cruz Arias, the ERD's public relations director, told Diálogo.
“The Army provided an immediate and timely response to the alert declared by the Ministry of Public Health and the [orders] of the government through the Armed Forces to execute an urgent program of prevention, mitigation, and response in the presence of the Zika virus in the country.”
Supporting the civilian population
The ERD’s preventive work, which is part of the National Campaign for the Fumigation, Counseling, and Breeding Site Removal of the Aedes Aegypti
, has been providing invaluable support to the civilian population nationwide. The ERD has complemented the campaign by creating the Epidemiological Sickness Mitigation Unit (UMEE, for its Spanish acronym) to support the Ministry of Public Health.
“Their assistance consisted of following orders from the Ministry of Defense. First was the creation, equipping, and training of the Epidemiological Unit, [which] is the size of a platoon – 30 personnel – and organically dependent upon the Humanitarian Rescue Unit. The Epidemiological Unit was created, trained, and sustained with resources from the Army,” Col. De la Cruz explained. “Secondly, the Commanders from senior units responsible for different regions throughout the country identify vulnerable communities and possible infection foci with help from their medical personnel and by coordinating with civil authorities in their operational areas. Thirdly, a team from the unit is sent to conduct the fumigation operations and awareness campaigns for those living in the communities where counter-Zika operations are being held.”
Nearly 6,000 dwellings fumigated
During the third week of March, the Army’s Third Infantry Brigade, under the command of General Milton de Jesús Frías Gómez, resumed the fumigation campaign that other ERD units had been working on since January. On March 4th, police and the Public Works Ministry's Military Commission sprayed 5,888 dwellings in Villa Altagracia as a continuation of the Counter Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya Fumigation Program that supports the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance. “The UMEE is working around the clock and is at the service of the Ministry of Public Health as a way of confronting the Zika and dengue viruses, among other illnesses,” Major General José Eugenio Matos de la Cruz stated.
A month earlier, in February, the ERD supported the Public Health Ministry’s Brigade during visits to preselected homes where the Army focused on areas where water was stored and the insect incubated, such as tanks, planters, tires, and cisterns. The ERD, which also concentrated on patios, alleys, gardens, roofs, and empty lots, counseled civilians on the dangers of these illnesses, their characteristics, symptoms, and steps to follow if someone is suspected of being infected.
Fumigation campaign ongoing
Authorities launched the public health campaign on January 25th, when Defense Minister Lieutenant General Máximo W. Muñoz Delgado deployed more than 2,000 Military service members to use new fumigation and cleaning equipment in neighborhoods in Santo Domingo and in other cities nationwide to support the Ministry of Public Health and prevent the diseases from spreading. They supported more than 100 specialized doctors from the Military who had joined the National Campaign for the Fumigation, Counseling, and Breeding Site Removal of the Aedes Aegypti
In January, the First Infantry Brigade was assigned all Military zones, while the Second and Sixth Brigades was deployed to the nearby neighborhoods of Santiago de los Caballeros and San Pedro de Macorís, which are in the provinces of Santiago and San Pedro de Macorís, respectively. They also carried out preventive operations in the provinces of San Juan de la Maguana under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Health and in coordination with the Emergency Operations Center.
The Combat Support and Service Support Brigades are conducting their operations in Villa Mella and Los Guaricanos, with the Third Infantry Brigade focusing on the provinces of San Juan de la Maguana and Elías Piña. The ERD’s Fourth Infantry Brigade is conducting its operations in the provinces of Valverde Mao and Dajabón, while the Fifth Infantry Brigade is working in the provinces of Barahona and Jimaní.
The Military will maintain its fight against the diseases.
“We will continue with the operations under the instructions of the Ministry of Defense regarding the prevention and mitigation [of the spread and impact of Zika] throughout the national territory,” Col. De la Cruz said.