JAKARTA, Indonesia — Compassion International, one of the largest Christian-based children outreach groups, is calling for prayer for hundreds of Indonesians who died of dengue fever.
"While the peak of the outbreak appears to have passed, this is a major health-related crisis for Indonesia," said Compassion International's Director of Country Operations Handoyo Petrus Nawawi. "The death rate is significantly higher than what we've experienced in the recent past.
According to Compassion, more than 450 people have been killed as a result of the outbreak since January 1 and nearly 35,000 people have fallen ill. The World Health Organization estimates that 20,000 people have contracted dengue fever in Indonesia.
Dengue fever is spread by mosquitoes and occurs in many rainy tropical countries. In Asia, it has been found as far north as Hong Kong. Victims typically suffer fevers, painful headaches, severe joint pain and rashes. Occasionally, individuals with dengue fever experience blood-clotting problems. When this occurs, the illness is called dengue hemorrhagic fever.
George Petersen, who represents the World Health Organization in Indonesia, said dengue fever occurs annually during the rainy season. But the number of cases typically peaks every five years. "For more than 30 years dengue has been known here," he said. "But Indonesia seems to have a peak this year with more case than there has been in previous years."
Dr. Petersen notes that many victims are children who are exposed to dengue for the first time. Adults are more likely to survive if they’ve already exposed to dengue and be immune to it.
Dr. Petersen said government and WHO efforts in Indonesia have focused on eliminating the Aedes aegypti mosquito breeding areas. "The problem is to organize communities to start proper cleanup," he said. "Very much the emphasis has to be on local communities leaders, [they] have to take some initiative."
The outbreak has also affected Compassion International in Indonesia that is serving more than 31,600 children.
"We are asking Christians around the globe to join us in prayer that the effects of this epidemic will be minimized, not only for our children, but for all the people of Indonesia," Nawawi said.
"In the developed world a disease of this kind would not have this kind of dramatic impact," Compassion Child Development Specialist Rebeca Harcharik said. "Developed countries are able to take preventative measures and provide greater access to health care in the face of a crisis of this magnitude."