Wednesday, August 03, 2016

To Cut or Not To Cut - Mosquitoes using Guerrilla Warfare

Mosquitoes in the Roblot community seem to have learnt to stay away from their common breeding grounds which the Environmental health Officers target - rain gutters, covered drains, flower pots, plates and dish drainers, old tires etc. The mosquitoes are ‘going green’ as they are now choosing trees and plants as their breeding spots. There seems to be a shift, mosquitoes now lay eggs at the contact point of the leaves and trunk of the plants.
The Screw Pine
The plant in particular which many persons in the community believe give rise to mosquitoes-breeding in wet weather is the Screw Pine, (locally known as “panama”) which is a shrubby, sword-like leaved plant that grows from 2-6 meters high. The part where leaves of the screw pine connect to the trunk can serve as a cup that holds water, making it an ideal spot for mosquitoes to breed.In spite of being a breeding ground for the mosquito, the plant is of some value to a few of the residents who rely on handicraft for a living. The leaves are used for making thatches, baskets, mats, hats and other fancy articles by a few of the residents. Apart from its handicraft use the screw pine plant also serves as a windbreaker for a few homes while a few elders say that a decoction of the roots/leaves is of medicinal value: -
  • Promotes the flow of urine and is tonic for the heart
  • Anti-abortion tonic, leucoderma and scabies.
  • Rheumatism, earache and headache.
Aedes mosquito

Never in my stay in the Roblot community have I heard of an influx of mosquitoes as now. Every single home in the community cries with one voice – “Where have all these mosquitoes come from?” Although many homes are taking all the necessary precautions to prevent mosquitoes from breeding plus environmental health workers have made frequent visits to see that homes adhere to these precautionary measures, the population has grown by leaps and bounds.One resident recalls late one evening hearing the buzzing sound of the mosquitoes so loud in her home that she thought she was hearing a police siren from a distance.

Fogging in Roblot in Aug. 2011
The environmental health authorities seem to have forgotten to fog the area on a regular basis. I spoke with a senior environmental official who claims that the lack of protective clothing and transportation are the main reasons for the lack of fogging in the communities. Can you believe this? The last time “The Forgotten Communities” benefited from a fogging was in August 2011. (

There in my humble opinion, can only be one reason for this increase in the population of mosquitoes in the community this rainy season – the screw pine plants. So where do we go from here? Should the importance of the screw pine plant for a livelihood, medicinal values and protection of the residents over-ride the menace poised by the mosquitoes with a threat of dengue, chikungunya or even Zika? 

Will a decision be taken to rid the community of these plants or will the Ministry of Health come forward with a reliable fogging plan. "The Forgotten Communities" await with baited breath while the army of mosquitoes continue to take its toll on the residents. 

The question is now put:-  TO CUT OR NOT TO CUT? 

(A short clip on how a mosquito feeds:

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