Mark Wignall | Our gullies are mosquito paradise
A little after mid-day last Monday, still hours before a heavy downpour of rain made known its sudden fury, my lady and I drove casually through sections of lower St. Andrew. I was on a lookout for the state of gullies and searching for the extent to which they contributed to the dengue outbreak.
Those tributaries leading to, and on, Washington Boulevard, were all liberally befouled with plastic waste and overgrown shrubbery, much of which had roots through cracked areas of the cement base or, long-term soil build up due to poor public management. Same with the huge section of the Sandy Gully by Molynes Road, those channels on Waltham Park Road and every area observed on western Spanish Town Road.
The shrubbery and the huge amounts of garbage in plastic created dams in many places which led to water build-up and ideal spots for mosquito breeding sites and disease creation.
It makes little sense when health authorities implore us to keep the personal space around our houses free from breeding sites, and when we do so, it is only to be raided on a nightly basis by hordes of the flying demons of dengue generated by poor gully management.
Add to that some foolish words from our Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton. “The Government, and more specifically myself and the Ministry of Health, did not claim an outbreak long before when we did, which is the 3rd of January 2019, and I want to make it clear for the record that you can't declare an outbreak until the epidemic threshold is achieved.”
Let me speak with you, Chris. We know that you are an educated man, and you have ton loads of intelligence freely at your disposal. You are a politician and you occupy a post as health minister where you know that in the best of times our health system is always short on resources, personnel, equipment and, at all times in Jamaica it has never been the best time for poor people to get sick.
So, Chris, there you are seeing an outbreak headed at you and more importantly, us, like the low-looming storm cloud in the sea before a hurricane hits and, you don't give the nation a heads up? Are you not a sensible human first before all the other attainments of politician, an MP, a minister of government and the holder of a PhD where people get to call you ‘doctor’ even though you cannot prescribe as aspirin for a headache?
Mosquitos do travel. Those bred in water settled in honeycomb rocks on the hillsmigrate first to those hilly communities and then on to the lower-elevation areas. Those rising up from the stink of the stagnant ponds in gullies migrate to your house, peep through your window, gain entrance, seek out the build-up of carbon dioxide around one’s head, then a warm spot over a well of blood just under the skin.
We are therefore subject to the fates of the failures in public health and a minister who is trying to carry the exactitude of academia to governance when common sense would have been the preferred route.
The home area is clean, but the gullies are ideal breeding grounds for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. And as we get bitten, become very ill, visit a primary health centre where many are forced to endlessly wait, they do so because doctors are few, other patients are many, hospital beds and diagnostic equipment are at a premium and, our minister has his head buried in the latest chapter of Dengue Disease Outbreak Threshold while mosquitos are a buzzing.