Shadow Public Health Minister, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran Tuesday criticized government for failing to put sufficient measures in place to tackle the mosquito-borne Zika Virus that scientists believe is responsible for brain deformity in babies in neighbouring Brazil.
“Nothing for vector control, that is a sick situation,” quipped Ramsaran, a former Health Minister, during his contribution to the 2016 Budget Debate.
The Ministry of Public Health recently released a schedule for fogging in Georgetown and parts of the East Coast and East Bank Demerara.
Responding, Junior Public Health Minister, Dr Karen Cummings told the House that steps are being taken to embark on an aggressive public awareness and education campaign through Social Media, conventional mass media, text messages, and WhatsApp as well as loud hailers in hinterland communities. In addition to the distribution of treated mosquito nets mainly to pregnant women, she said mosquito traps would be provided and fogging would intensify. Cummings said Guyana would be collaborating with Caricom and Brazil to build capacity at the National Reference Laboratory to test for Zika Virus locally rather that send samples to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
Guyana has already registered one confirmed case of Zika.
Shadow Health Minister Ramsaran noted that a “miniscule” amount of money has been allocated in the budget for the purchase of fogging machines in Regions One and 10. Ramsaran charged that the nine-month old APNU+AFC coalition administration appears to be relying in spray cans and fogging machines that the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration.
Ramsaran said government failed to allocate sufficient funds to fight the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that is responsible for spreading the Zika Virus, and he urged the Ministers of Public Health to meet with the Finance Minister to find more monies . “This budget is unimaginative in reaching out to fight that battle,” he said.
The Shadow Public Health Minister urged the government to spend some of the GYD$4 billion windfall from falling oil prices on fighting Zika by buying fogging machines, spraying and distributing treated mosquito nets mostly to pregnant mothers.