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$7M to fight Zika

By Akilah Holder Friday, February 19 2016

GOVERNMENT has allocated $7 million to the 14 municipal corporations to aid in the fight against Zika. Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Franklin Khan made this revelation at a local government reform forum at the Siparia Market on Wednesday evening. Khan acknowledged the first case of Zika in Trinidad and Tobago and said that his ministry has been working closely with the Ministry of Health to combat the virus which has been linked to birth defects in children born to women infected with the disease.

Additionally, Khan admitted that he had hoped to allocate more funds to the corporations, but was not able to secure the funds to do so. “We are working closely with the Ministry of Health on the Zika virus. We have just allocated seven million to the regional corporations for clean-up, five hundred thousand per corporation. Funds are limited and I wanted to allocate one million each, but we weren’t able to get the funds. There will be a major clean-up campaign for white waste and containers that could possibly hold water,” Minister Khan said.

But not all corporation heads were happy with the allocation for Zika control. Premchand Sookhoo, chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation, stated he did not know of any allocation being made to the corporation. “We have discovered several derelict vehicles to be removed; we have discovered there are several overgrown lots, abandoned lots, abandoned houses and the removal of solid waste,” he said, adding that an effective figure for his corporation alone to combat Zika was $2.5 million.

Mayor of Chaguanas, Gopaul Boodhan, said that while the $500,000 is insufficient, he appreciates the assistance from Government.

“Two weeks ago, we sent a supplementary budget for monies for the Zika campaign. What is happening, is that we, from our public health department, have intensified our campaign in terms of the entire Borough of Chaguanas.” The Mayor said one of the ways the Chaguanas Borough Corporation plans to fight the virus is by instituting a Name and Shame program, whereby the name of the owner of derelict lot of land or house will be made known to the community in an effort to shame them into action to clean their property and reduce the breeding of mosquitoes which are the carriers of Zika and other diseases.

San Fernando Mayor of San Fernando Kazim Hosein welcomed the $500,000, saying that he was quite grateful for the allocation and that if he had received only $100,000, he would have made it work. “We are going to start on Monday. We put everything in place already and we are going to start four o’ clock on Monday evening. We are sensitizing the schools and raising awareness among everybody about keeping the premises clean. As I have said, we are going to start charging the owners for these lots,” the San Fernando Mayor said.

On Wednesday evening, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh announced the first case of Zika in this country, that of a 61-year-old woman who had recently returned from New Zealand.



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