Are we humans deadlier than mosquitoes?
Do Barbadians take life seriously? Do our leaders take Barbadians seriously?
We suggest that too frequently the answer to these queries is often in the negative and certain accompanying results can prove detrimental not only to those who transgress, procrastinate or show a propensity for acute ignorance, but also to the innocent and vulnerable around us.
We are constantly being told about the threat of the chikungunya virus, dengue and zika. We are warned about the potential danger – inclusive of death – posed by mosquitos bearing these viruses. We are aware that during the rainy season the prevalence of these creatures often multiplies exponentially. Hence their capacity for murder, yes murder, and mayhem increases significantly.
A survey two years ago placed mosquitos as the number one worldwide killers. More dangerous than sharks, crocodiles, snakes, lions, rabid dogs and any other specie that one can contemplate. While human beings are said to be responsible for the deaths of about 475 000 of their own kind annually, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that mosquitos kill one million people across the globe every year. The WHO has also noted that between 300 and 500 million cases of malaria occur each year because of mosquitos and that a child somewhere dies from malaria every 30 seconds.
It has been reported that mosquitos outnumber every other specie on earth other than ants and termites. They are found in every nook and cranny of the world other than Antarctica. Though their life span is short, one mosquito can infect up to 100 persons before it expires. They are adaptable and as can be seen by the various viruses they present, they evolve and can introduce a new devastating strain with the slightest mutation. The crux of all of this is that mosquitos are arguably the most efficient assassins – silent and otherwise – on planet earth.
And how do we Barbadians respond to their annual persistent threat? A drive around the island in both rural and urban Barbados will highlight the stupidity, negligence, indifference and criminal complicity that abound. Of course, those doing their part are condemned because their efforts will come to nought due to the neglect of their neighbours. Unfortunately, these tiny killers do not differentiate between who dumps illegally and who properly disposes of his or her waste. They do not discriminate between the householder who practices excellent domestic hygiene and the obnoxious next-door nuisance who believes filthy is a euphemism.
And despite the danger posed, we throw empty containers onto pastures, streets, gullies, behind our homes, our churches, schools, entertainment venues, beaches, work sites, on other people’s properties, gutters. We excavate sites for construction and leave them for protracted periods of time where water collects and they become palatial hideouts for these killers. We indulge our would-be love for keeping plants but soon empty neglected exterior pots become comfortable apartments for these murderers. We neglect our kitchen drainers and provide brief stopovers for mosquitos. We store bottles outdoors, we leave vehicle tyres to the elements and invite staycations by these vermin. We place garbage containers outside our homes, ignoring the fact they provide sanctuary for mosquitos if no escape for the collection of water is provided. We construct wells for waste without proper cover and become complicit in the acts of quiet terrorism of these culicidae.
But what about our country’s leadership? Of course, it is incumbent on all of us to do everything in our power to decrease the murder rate occasioned by mosquitos. But, still, state leadership is not an unwanted commodity in this scenario. Do we always get it? A drive around the country will provide that answer.
Travel to Halls Road, St Michael and quiz the Ministry of the Environment as to why following a previous outbreak of chikungunya in that area, has the state allowed the canal there to once again be ‘upgraded’ to a five-star green estate for mosquitos?
Travel into urban areas such as New Orleans, Chapman Street, Vine Street, Cypress Street, Spruce Street, Bulls Alley, Suttle Street, and one will notice that the Sanitation Service Authority takes somewhat longer to collect garbage in these communities than it does to remove waste from Kent, Fort George Heights or Regency Park. The irony is that those with the responsibility of these collections do not live in Kent, Fort George Heights or Regency Park. They mainly dwell where the mosquitos do too.
Government officials from time to time track illegal dumpers in rural Barbados and rather than name and shame them, or even prosecute them, they pursue the avenue of less paperwork by having them simply remove their waste. Perhaps to take it some place else.
But perhaps statisticians and researchers will have to rethink their conclusion on the dangers posed by mosquitos. If the response to their existence is exemplified by what occurs generally in Barbados, then it is not these creatures that are responsible for the most deaths annually, it would definitely be us human-beings who take pride of place.