Gov't launches national clean-up

Gov't launches national clean-up

Initiative to tackle dengue outbreak which has claimed more than 80 lives in two years

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 16, 2020

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THREE Government ministries are to collaborate in a major initiative to fight the dengue outbreak which has claimed more than 80 lives across Jamaica over the past two years.

The ministries of Health and Wellness; Local Government and Community Development and; Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport used yesterday's post-Cabinet media briefing to outline the latest assault on the disease which recorded 8,290 suspected and confirmed cases across Jamaica last year.

The 2019 figure was a massive jump from the 1,066 suspected or confirmed cases in 2018 and resulted in 1,692 persons admitted to hospital for between three and five days.

With the average cost for an adult who is hospitalised because of dengue being put at just over $116,000 and $213,000 for each child admitted, the government ministries have decided to step up their efforts to slow down the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which spreads the disease.

Leading the charge will be Olivia “Babsy” Grange, the minister with responsibility for culture, gender, entertainment and sport. Grange also has responsibility for the National Labour Day Secretariat and will be engage that body in a “National dengue clean-up” in a manner similar to the annual Labour Day activities.

“The National Dengue Clean-up will take place over three days – January 24, 25 and 26. During this time we will search for, and destroy mosquitoes and their breeding sites in homes, communities, schools, workplaces, churches, everywhere,” said Grange.

“On Friday the 24th, we will focus attention on mosquito breeding sites in schools, churches and businessplaces. On Saturday the 25th and Sunday the 26th, we will turn attention to dengue-proofing our homes and community spaces,” added Grange.

She noted that the health ministry has already identified 158 communities across the island which are in need of urgent action to destroy mosquito-breeding sites. Of that number 36 communities have been identified as in need of critical intervention.

According to Grange, there are 36 critical communities including Grants Pen and Rae Town in the Corporate Area and those have been selected as the national projects during the dengue clean-up.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness will lead the clean-up of these communities and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips will be invited to join the effort.

“The work teams will remove bulky waste, bush overgrown vegetation and fill out depressed areas where mosquitoes are likely to breed.

“But a critical part of the intervention will be our interaction with residents where we will be encouraging, and showing them, how to cover drums and other waste-holding containers, and emptying or destroying containers as necessary,” said Grange.

The minister underscored that the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), the National Solid Waste Management Authority and the National Works Agency will play key roles on the national projects, with members of the JDF already conducting site visits and doing preparatory work in the two communities.

Grange said gullies in the two communities will be cleaned while the waterfront at Rae Town will also get a facelift.

Other gullies and drains across the island will also be cleaned during the period under an initiative to be led by the Ministry of Local Government through the municipal authorities.

Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie told the post-Cabinet briefing that each local authority is to establish a “Dengue Response Committee” which will do nothing but focus on measures to contain the disease.

According to McKenzie, his ministry is also to hold town hall meetings in every parish capital over the next three months to share ideas on the dengue response and to educate members of the public on the actions they can take.

“As we look at our response to the [dengue] crisis, we must also ask ourselves how much of this crisis have we contributed to? I am looking at a number of gullies in the Corporate Area which are slated to be tackled in this round of clean-up and these have been cleared before.

“But it is because of the disregard for law and order why we have to go back and do it all over again,” said McKenzie as he appealed to Jamaicans to take better care of the environment.

In the meantime, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, who has been given a $1-billion war chest to fight dengue, used the post-Cabinet media briefing to again reject claims that Government is downplaying the severity of the outbreak.

While giving numbers, including the 81 fatalities linked to the dengue outbreak over the past two years, Tufton said more vector control workers would hit the streets in the coming days, while new vehicles, with mounted fogging machines, should also be on the roads in the next week or two.

“A lot of work has been done to tackle the outbreak; this [is a] major challenge that we face…that the region faces. The Government is committed to continuing the task, and we are taking a joined-up approach because we believe all of us have a role to play, starting with the citizens… and the Government agencies that are out there in the field,” said Tufton.


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