Barbuda clean-up operations underway

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Minister of Health, Molwyn Joseph

Since the devastation of Barbuda by Hurricane Irma, the Minister of Health and the Environment, Honourable Molwyn Joseph, the Permanent Secretary and the senior technicians of the ministry have been meeting more than once daily, to plan the various aspects of our response to the crisis.

This response involves, first of all, the many urgent questions of health and hygiene surrounding the official shelters in Antigua, where hundreds of Barbudan adults and children are housed.

Then, there is the question of dealing with potential public health hazards in the cleanup operations of Barbuda; mosquito- borne disease, water-borne disease, etc. Certain measures had to be taken before a significant number of workers could function there.

On Thursday, September 14th, senior Public Health Workers from Barbuda met with us at the Ministry of Health and the Environment, to plan the immediate public health approach in Barbuda, as the official beginning of the cleaning process.

Vector control, with mosquitoes and rats as the main targets, water purification, and the rescue and care of animals, especially dogs, were the agreed priorities.

A suitably equipped and stocked medical post, operated by members of the Emergency Medical Services, was also planned, along with the start of cleanup activities. The Public Health Team, including Barbudans, planned to travel on Saturday morning, September 16th, to start the fogging and the other planned public health activities. Those activities would be followed, within two days, by the collection of loose metal sheeting, the disconnection of electrical cables from fallen posts, and the cutting up of those posts, along with the fallen trees and loose boards in the streets.

On Friday 15th, a delegation led by Minister Joseph, and including senior technicians of the ministry, the Vector Control Officer of Barbuda, senior technicians from Solid Waste and from Public Works, the Director of the National Office of Disaster Services, and the head of the Humane Society, visited Codrington.

Based on the observations made, decisions were taken regarding accommodation for the initial workers, the location of the medical post and the site for a dog shelter. The equipment and general machinery , as well as some materials that would be necessary, were also decided upon.

Vector control activity began in Barbuda on Saturday 16th, and heavy duty equipment for the general cleanup activities is supposed to be in Barbuda on Sunday 17th.

The clean-up operation will benefit from the expert advice of a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) representative, Mr. Adrianus Ton Vlugman, Senior Advisor, Water Supply, Sanitation and Environmental Health Caribbean Sub-Region.

If the weather permits, organized and well supervised official cleanup activities will begin no later than Tuesday, September 19th, in Codrington, Barbuda. We are meeting daily with the Barbudan authorities.

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