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Rats running rampant

by Kimberley Cummins

cleaninguphwayBarbadian children are at serious risk for leptospirosis.

This as a result of the many vacant bush-covered lots across the island near schools, that have become havens for pests.

Senior Environmental Health Officer at the Vector Control Unit, Maurice Gaskin, told Barbados TODAY that this was one of the worst nuisances they faced. He said the unit received at least 15 complaints per week, the majority from schools, especially primary schools in the country, complaining of† the pests invading the compound. So the staff at the unit were mandated that once they received complaints from schools, they were to be investigated within 24 hours.

He admitted though that with a roll of 400 to 800 children some of them would litter, but emphasised that he did not believe this was the main cause for the infestation.

“We have done a survey and analyst on the knowledge of the children, both Ministry of Health and an independent body, and we found that 90 per cent know what is happening, the causes of lepto and ways to prevent it. So the knowledge and attitude is there, the problem sometimes it is not practised,” he said.

“We have gone into all 91 [public and private] primary schools on the island and we have done training on vector control. We put down bait stations at the majority of schools and top them up regularly, we also advice the schools on proper waste disposal practices.

“We have also brought the teachers from all schools into our training room at the Ministry of Health and trained at least one teacher from each school. For three months in 2011 we brought in 425 school meals workers for training because they deal with the children too.†We have done training with the police, customs, immigration, Ministry Transport and Works, sanitation…; we will try to target persons who will be exposed to dangerous conditions.

To help solve the problem, the Ministry of Health continues to write some 12,000 to 15,000 lot owners across Barbados regarding the upkeep of their vacant lots, but Gaskin said often times the owners resided overseas and it was difficult to contact many of them.

Last November they began a Saturday baiting programme at the Vector Control Unit which has so far been well received and the Government has an annual debushing programme which begins in November and finishes in March, he explained. Gaskin said when this is done they see a reduction in complaints, however around June/July complaints rise because of the rainy season and once again drop in November/December since people clean more because of Christmas.

Other problems the Vector Control Unit is fighting against was people discharging their waste water from their kitchen into the road and illegal dumping. He added that the unit were trying their best but people must practise cleanliness for them to achieve success.††††

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