Compassion Fights Disease in Bolivia

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In the South American nation of Bolivia, a deadly disease is spreading through mosquito bites.

It is nicknamed "break bone fever" for the painful throes that come with the Dengue virus.

One Bolivian church is fighting to protect its neighbors.

Pastor Alirio Aguilar is a victim of Bolivia's Dengue Fever epidemic.

"I have Dengue now. I'm not doing well. My skin is cold, my mouth and stomach hurt. Those are Dengue symptoms," Aguilar said.

Aguilar's wife and children are Dengue survivors. Hundreds of others have been hospitalized.

By mid-April Bolivia reported 54,000 cases of the mosquito-borne fever, and the epidemic has spread in neighboring countries.

Thousands of cases of Dengue Fever are also reported in neighboring Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. In its more severe form, Hemorrhagic Dengue can be fatal.

Aguilar worries about the children in his neighborhood near Santa Cruz. Of the159 children that attend the development center at his church, 70 are infected with Dengue.

Today Aguilar is searching for standing water and dark corners where aedes mosquitos breed and hide, not just at the center, but also in the children's homes.

He is using equipment and insecticide donated by Compassion International, which sponsors some of the neighborhood children.

"This compassion program doesn't just help the child; it helps the family," he said. "The father of one child has died and we're contributing $500 so that the mother begin to work with something and get ahead. And the child keeps his sponsorship. That boy gets help."

Bolivia officially says 22 people have died from Dengue, but a UN official says the number is probably in the hundreds.

In this neighborhood, Aguilar's church is training children to fight the Dengue-bearing mosquitos.

"The problem of tires; not keeping water jugs for more than a week, and all those things," Roberto Aruquipa Compassion International said. "We tell them, we are poor but not filthy."

And if pastor Aguilar has his way, there will be no further deaths from Dengue Fever in this small corner of Bolivia.

*Originally Published May 5, 2009

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Stan Jeter

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CBN News Senior Producer Stan Jeter specializes in Christian news and Latin American coverage.  He has lived and worked for many years in South and Central America, most recently developing the Spanish Christian news program, Mundo Cristiano.  Follow Stan on Twitter @StanJeterNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/StanJeterCBN.