Get ready, Bandung: The wiggler busters are coming
Yati Hayati has been a hunter for two years, but her prey are not animals. The 47-year-old chases wigglers, better known as mosquito larvae.
She volunteers for a puskesmas, or local community healthcare center, in Baleendah sub-district, about 30 kilometers south of Bandung, West Java.
Yati said she took up her work as a wiggler hunter (known as a juru pemantau jentik, or jumantik, for short) after three neighbors died from dengue fever in 2011.
“Our job may look trivial and unpaid, but it gives significant benefit to the people, because dengue fever’s spread can be curbed,” Yati said.
Another volunteer Entin Supriyatin, 44, said that her salary was around “sajuta” (one million).
“Sajuta here is not referring to money. It’s an abbreviation for patience [sabar], honesty [jujur]
and pious submission [tawakal],” Entin said.
The women, who each have four children, spend three days a week going around their neighborhood to check sanitation. Equipped with flashlights, they scrutinize homes and streets for standing pools of water that are likely breeding sites for mosquitos, such as water containers, water dispensers and potholes.
“They’re cynical at times. We come to them only to get mocked. They say if we want to check their houses, we should look first at our own” Entin said.
Her neighbors, Entin said, were often embarrassed if their homes were discovered to host wigglers. Some asked that the jumantik keep the infestations a secret.
Subdistrict head Heru Kianto said the volunteer outreach program had been more effective than fogging with pesticides in eradicating mosquitoes.
“Many reject fogging because of its high cost of implementation, which can reach Rp 3 million [US$318]. The residents are also deterred by the stinging odor of the smoke. It’s not effective either, because it kills only adult mosquitoes — not the larva,” Heru said.
A recent training session on dengue fever prevention run by the Health Ministry attracted upwards of 275 volunteer jumantik in the sub-district.
Rita Kusriastuti, the Health Ministry’s animal-borne disease control chief, said the participants were taught about aedes aegypty, the mosquito species that transmits dengue virus, chikungunya and Japanese encephalitis.
“The disease from Japan can cause inflammation of the brain that can lead to death,” Rita said.
The jumantik were also taught to be self-restrained in their monitoring, Rita said. The volunteers were doing important work, she added, given that a single mosquito can produce up to 200 eggs of larva.
Jumantik have helped decrease the national incidence of dengue fever from 156,086 cases recorded in 2010 to 65,725 cases in 2011, the Health Ministry said.
The disease is the most common animal-borne ailment tracked by the government.
There are about 4,500 jumantik in West Java, which recorded the highest number of dengue cases in the nation, 13,971, in 2011, according to the ministry.