Health Minister calls for use of DDT to fight vectors

07 Mar 2024
Kaieteur News Online
Guyana is adopting strategies that fully utilises biological methods as a control strategy for vectors thus the use of BTI (Bacillus Thuringiensis Israelensis) is one that should be more widely utilised in Guyana.

This is according to Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, who recently commended the work that is being done through the efforts of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Ministry of Health, and professionals of other entities, along with communities in the pilot work currently being undertaken in this regard in Mahdia and Bush Lot.

However, the Minister observed that the work, although commendable, is proceeding at snail's pace, a pace that "is not deserving" of a matter of such serious magnitude.

According to him, biological control using BTI can be used in many local communities and is a unique way of engaging the community in vector control.

He lamented though that "more than a year after we started that project, many of the people working on that project must be reminded that this project is still an ongoing one in Guyana. I am disappointed and I want to say publicly on behalf of the people who live in our villages that we are depriving them of a unique way of addressing the problem through biological control."

The Minister noted that Guyana and too many countries in this Region have made poor use of residual spraying capacity that exist, even as he noted that access to expensive chemical for residual spraying is a constraint.

"I would hope that our use of residual spraying is improved. I believe that we are failing our people all those who have died of vector borne diseases. We have access to very effective chemical that we have made no use of over the years."

In addition, the Minister shared his conviction that the elimination of DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane) has been too early. DDT is a well-known synthetic pesticide which has been banned for agricultural purposes, but there is still limited controversial use in disease vector control.

"I support the non-use of DDT for agricultural purposes but not the elimination as a vector control chemical and I would say that until I die. I don't believe we have any justification in terms of the number of deaths globally and the morbidity due to these diseases," the Minister added.

He underscored too that the use of chemicals locally has been one that is full of "pot holes. The flirtation has been so long that the prospective courting partners are getting too old for flirtation."

He further pointed out that fogging and the use of appropriate chemicals to control the mosquito populations is still an effective tool, adding that "our hesitation in the use of fogging bewilders me."

As a result, he noted that the Ministry of Health is poised to build the fogging capacity of all Local Government entities, insisting that it (fogging) is an exercise that cannot be handled from the Ministry but rather it has to be a capacity that is built into the Municipalities and other such entities as part of their governance mandate.

"It is an obligation to our citizens and while the Ministry is trying at this time to do some fogging exercise it is believed that the Municipalities and the Regional Governments and the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils are failing our people by not aggressively taking on this role."

While the Municipalities and the Local Governments have not taken up this role, Minister Ramsammy noted that the Ministry has an obligation to "fill the vacuum. We cannot stand by and not do anything.

While we will continue to appeal to the authorities to do their job we must take a more robust approach," Minister Ramsammy insisted.

He noted though that the responsibility does not only lie with the Ministry's Vector Control Unit but also other departments including the Environmental Health Unit, which according to him has been weak in its efforts and sometimes "behave as though this is not a role for them to play. It is a role for all of us."

The public also has a role to play, the Minister stressed.