Tue | Mar 2, 2021

DENGUE WAR - $2b earmarked to intensify fight against disease, Christmas projects

Published:Wednesday | November 13, 2019 | 12:49 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Trees and shrubs choke a section of the Sandy Gully adjacent to the Obistan Kindergarten Preparatory School off Washington Boulevard in St Andrew.
Trees and shrubs choke a section of the Sandy Gully adjacent to the Obistan Kindergarten Preparatory School off Washington Boulevard in St Andrew.

The Government has earmarked $1.3 billion, broken down into $15-million allocations, to each of the 63 constituencies across the island, to roll out a four-month sanitation, drain-cleaning and beautification programme.

At the same time, with the dengue crisis seemingly spiralling out of control, another $1 billion has been earmarked to tackle the mosquito-borne disease that has been blamed for 44 deaths so far this year. The health ministry has reported another 6,114 suspected cases of dengue since January.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who announced the mitigation programme in Parliament last evening, said that while the exercise would have an element of Christmas work in it, the programme would focus primarily on the clearing of blocked drains and gullies; debushing of roadsides, gully banks and verges; and the collecting of municipal waste; as well as beautification of public spaces.

In a statement to the House, Holness warned members of parliament (MPs) that the programme, to be implemented immediately and run until February 2020, was not “giveaway work”.

He said that the national mitigation exercise would be implemented by the National Works Agency in collaboration with the National Solid Waste Management Authority and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

According to Holness, funds not used by the end of February will be reallocated to other national programmes.

“If you don’t use it, you will lose it,” Holness stressed.

He said that while MPs would get the opportunity to identify projects in their constituencies, the NWA would have the task of implementing the programme.

To ensure that taxpayers get value for money, Holness said that the Integrity Commission would be tasked with the responsibility of providing oversight.

“The current incidence of dengue cases, as outlined by the minister of health and wellness, calls for a national response to mitigate this threat,” said Holness.

“We know from the WHO (World Health Organization) and other practitioners how important the elimination of breeding sites is to the prevention of mosquito-borne maladies,” he added.

With reports of persons barring teams from the health ministry from carrying out vector-control duties, the prime minister said that if private property created a public-health risk, it becomes the public’s business.

Every single Jamaican, said Holness, should take responsibility for their immediate environs to ensure that they do not facilitate mosquito breeding.

Last year, the Holness administration spent $997 million to carry out disaster-mitigation works in constituencies across the country.

In an earlier statement to Parliament, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told his parliamentary colleagues that given the intensity of the dengue outbreak, Cabinet has approved $1 billion to enhance the health ministry’s intervention.

He said the funds would be spent over the next three months using a multisectoral agency response to the problem.

As part of the drive to significantly reduce the incidence of dengue, the ministry will acquire 35 vector-control vehicles and mounted foggers.

Three government ministries will take part in the effort while agencies such as the NWA and the Social Development Commission will provide support.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com

The national mitigation allocation per constituency is broken down as follows:

– $4M for bushing and drain cleaning;

– $3M for sanitation and beautification works;

– $3M for vector control; and

– $5M for patching of potholes/road repairs