Too Little, Too Late, Sister P!

article-2649672-1E7EF20800000578-911_634x419Almost a year ago, in December 2013, the World Health Organisation reported that chik-V was in the Caribbean. Mosquitoes on the island of St Martin-St Maarten had been infected with the virus and were spreading it to the human population.

Even before that, the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jointly published in 2011 a vital document, Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus Introduction in the Americas. It warned that “[t]he resulting large outbreaks would likely tax existing health-care systems and the public-health infrastructure, and could potentially cripple some of society’s functioning”.

That’s when the Government of Jamaica should have taken notice and started a public-education programme on the threat of the virus. Before it got here; not now. Why was our minister of health not paying attention then?

The PAHO-CDC document, which is available on the Internet, clearly states its objectives: “the prevention, detection, and timely response to outbreaks of CHIK through surveillance, case detection, investigation, and the launching of public-health actions”.


39871pnp72confn201009219rbThe document highlights the importance of Government sending out information that would “encourage informed decision making, positive behaviour change, and the maintenance of trust in public authorities”. This business of trust is crucial. But how many of us actually trust our public authorities? Even diehard Comrades who have been afflicted with chik-V cannot truthfully say they trust the word of the minister of health.

The Government should have been using both old and new media to spread accurate information on chik-V over the last three years. The PAHO-CDC guidelines acknowledge the fact that an outbreak of the disease can cause “confusion and controversy”. Chik-V has certainly made imaginative Jamaicans chat a lot of nonsense. Like saying it was the plane that crashed off the coast of Port Antonio on September 5 that brought the virus!

I suppose the minister of health will claim that the Government didn’t have the money to launch an expensive media campaign. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been forcing us to cut back on government spending. But in 2011, when those detailed warnings about managing chik-V were issued by PAHO-CDC, we should have told the IMF to ease off. A crippled workforce cannot possibly be productive.


imagesAdmittedly, the problem of disease control is much bigger than the failure of Government to lead effectively. We can’t leave it all up to untrustworthy Government. Every single citizen must take some responsibility for protecting our neighbourhoods from the threat of disease. Yes, the Government must ensure that gullies are regularly cleaned. But we have to stop throwing rubbish into gullies.

Another environmental issue we have to deal with is abandoned lots that are all-inclusive hotels for mosquitoes, especially when it rains. So here’s my story on that score. There’s an empty lot behind my house and two more in front. On all of them, the grass is at least two metres high. I know only one of the proprietors of these mosquito hotels. I called him a couple of weeks ago about bushing the lot.

I’d heard that he’d recently sold the lot, so I really wanted to be put in touch with the new owner. I couldn’t believe it when he told me that the lot had been sold by a third party and he didn’t know the new owner. So I asked him to let me know who the third party was. He would have to call me back. I heard nothing from him.


Then last week, a woman stopped at my gate to ask if the lots were for sale. I told her I didn’t think any of them was on the market. But I suggested that she talk to the mosquito hotelier I knew. I called him. And story come to bump. His lot was sold, but if he got a better offer, he would consider it!

sin-picture2This is a nice Christian gentleman who must know that it is sinful, if not downright criminal, to be offering for sale property that is supposedly already sold. It seems as if the nice gentleman is pretending he doesn’t own the lot so he won’t have to be responsible for bushing it. Anyhow, he did assure me that he had contacted the owner and it would be bushed by the end of the month. I guess he talked to himself – the first sign of madness.

This is what is so wrong with Jamaica. We are just too selfish. The owner of an open lot doesn’t usually live anywhere near it. So it’s not his or her problem if the lot is an unsightly breeding ground for mosquitoes. Too bad for the people who just have to put up with it; or clean it up at their own expense.

At a press conference called last Thursday, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller appealed to our better nature. She asked us to help the Government cope with our public-health crisis. She should have done that three years ago. Chik-V batter-bruise wi now. It’s much too late to kiss and make up.

Prime Minister and Minister of Health at press conference on public health crisis
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Minister of Health Fenton Ferguson at press conference on public-health crisis

4 thoughts on “Too Little, Too Late, Sister P!

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  1. Unless we develop some civic pride we will forever be in this problem with Chikungunya. We are too nasty and we don’t have to use big words to describe it some people too nasty. Anywhere, they walk they throw their garbage on the ground and don’t look back for even a glance. We throw our garbage in the gullies creating havens for mosquitoes. We have to do better and try and lift ourselves from this awkward situation with Chik V. Carolyn I concur with you that the government is a bit late in acting on this issue. Not because we might support the ruling government we must learn not to be yes men and speak the truth when needs be.

  2. I like the phrase “Leave No Trace” posted where folks congregate or hike on trails here in the U.S. A little effort goes a long way. Having trash receptacles could help and this is so basic. Clean up crews that are tied in with service projects and civic pride need to be promoted. I’m in the habit of picking up trash wherever I see it. Once I did this in front of a yard and dropped the litter in the owners trash container. She said not to do that. I told her I wouldn’t do that again but was surprised she didn’t like the idea that I was prettying up her space. Some people just don’t want to be reminded that may be they slacking when someone is picking up after them. That wasn’t my intention. Any trash any where should be anyone’s responsibility anytime!

    1. Jamaica has a huge problem with persons lacking civic pride. Some young persons I have seen will spit anywhere even on the church floor if they ever visits. Cleanliness is a dying virtue which seems to be evading us more and more as time passes by. Even if you place containers for garbage persons will throw it on the floor just the same way in spite of receptacles for garbage collection. This nasty mentality is from the highest echelons of our social hierarchy to the grassroots. It is very painful to see the future in our people in youngsters throwing garbage at their feet with no remorse. Obviously, it is a sad reality but we are to get somewhere if we must try to educate the masses to bring an end to the Chikungunya virus. It is an awkward experience to see our country wallowing in such mess with the young have no care in the world at all as to ways of resolving this difficult situation.

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