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Portland gears up for rat fight

State actors join forces to get rid of rodents

Everard Owen
Observer staff reporter

Monday, June 17, 2019

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Port Antonio, Portland — The Portland Health Department and Portland Municipal Cooperation have joined forces in a major rodent control programme for the town of Port Antonio and surrounding areas under the theme “Stop the rats; get our township back”.

They have been joined by Member of Parliament (MP) for Portland Eastern Ann-Marie Vaz who has urged constituents, business operators, and other stakeholders to support the effort.

The programme was officially launched last Friday at Foreshore Road in the town as the state actors sought to get everyone on board.

Patrick Dehaney, deputy chief public health inspector, challenged residents to be involved in the fight even if they believe they don't have rats inside their homes.

“But there are a lot of contributing factors, and we the people of Port Antonio have to do our part. We are trying to get all the different agencies on-board, as getting rid of the rodents is helping to keep us healthier, so we look forward to your cooperation” said Dehaney.

Mayor of Port Antonio Councillor Paul Thompson added to the appeal as he pledged the full support of the Portland Municipal Corporation.

“I gave the undertaking when I became mayor in 2016 to do everything possible to clean up the town of Port Antonio and to work closely with other organisations to improve the aesthetics of our town in an effort to restore it to a position of glory it once held among our urban centres and resort areas,” said Thompson.

“Nothing can be done without the help of the citizens, and I notice civic pride is nowhere around any more. One will eat anything anywhere and throw it anywhere, but when we go to other countries we would never do that, so we need to do the same here to keep it clean.

“We at the Portland Municipal Corporation have been working assiduously to accomplish this task on a daily basis. We welcome this project being undertaken by Portland Health Department and stand ready to do whatever we can, not only to make the project successful, but also to make its impact a lasting one.

The problem of rat infestation is one that has been here in this town for a very, very long time, and we all know the negative effect that can result from that undesirable situation,” added Thompson as he pleaded with residents to cooperate.

“We don't want our town to become a playground for rats or leptospirosis, and as well-thinking citizens we can play our part in cooperating with the health department and play our role in ensuring the success of this programme.

“It cannot be successful unless all of us play our part. Don't feed the rats, starve them; for if we don't stop feeding the rat in this town ... I am making a special appeal to everyone, especially the vendors to make every effort to properly dispose of your garbage so that it is not left in places where it is supposed to be.

“The vendors are some of our main culprits as they throw the garbage anywhere in the town and we have to put a stoppage to it. When you do that it makes the town look unsightly and encourage rats, and we have to take back this town and bring it to the place where it is supposed to be.

According to Thompson, the municipal corporation has done an estimate for the cost of garbage receptacles and will be providing them, “so no one will have any excuse about disposing their garbage anywhere in the town.”

He was supported by Eyvette Turner-McKellop from the Vector Control Unit. The Portland Health Department announced that it will be setting baits to help eradicate the rodents.

“We want the community to be a part of the plan so that it will not fail. We have been doing this for a number of years and have reaped benefits … [but] we are not really satisfied and we have to do more. The rats are not our friends, and we are not to feed them, especially those at the Errol Flynn Marina.

“I hear that they are very tame and they are dangerous and spread various diseases. We must get rid of them; we are looking at control first and we will be doing health education and promotion.

“We will be targeting all our business personnel — food operators, hardwares, etc, as we will be going out in the community and setting baits and poison in business places and source reduction to collect the waste, as this will be a combined effort as we seek your partnership,” said Turner-McKellop.

In the meantime, Vaz, the recently elected MP for Portland Eastern charged that the rats are a nuisance and not in keeping with her slogan for Portland which is 'clean and green'.

“I embarked on a clean up programme from last year because unless this place is cleaned up we cannot interest investors. So I want to salute the Portland Health Department for arranging this meeting here today and I want to pledge my support so we can solve this problem.

“However, unless each individual does their part by getting involved it will not solve the problem. We have to start disposing our garbage in a better manner. I have been building skips (garbage disposal units) across the constituency for this very reason so that there is a place to put our garbage,” said Vaz as she admitted that there is a shortage of garbage bins in the parish.

Vaz also admitted that she had been a victim of the rat infestation at her home in San-San in the parish.

“Rats invaded my home and chewed up two of my favourite shoes,” said Vaz.

“I have been a victim, and therefore I am in full support of the ministry of health initiative to rid Port Antonio and its environs of rats, which poses serious health risks to residents. Along with Ministry of Health, Portland Municipal Corporation, and the business community, I am backing this initiative,” Vaz declared.


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