Dariela Aquique

The fumigator. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 27 — The campaign against the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the priority of our country’s Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, which is under the Ministry of Public Health. Hoards of work crews are engaged in the campaign against this carrier of dengue fever, yellow fever and other diseases.

These workers check people’s homes daily, looking for any open deposits of water, seeing if there are any traces of larvae, sprinkling abate (an insect growth regulator) in water tanks, and even going into private bedrooms to inspect for glasses or cups filled with water (these are used in Afro-Cuban religious rituals).
But the crews conduct other work that’s perhaps the least well received by some people: fumigation.
I’ll discuss this in steps so as not to create any misinterpretations.

It’s well known that the government allocates significant resources toward this anti-mosquito campaign, with expenditures made on everything from television and radio spots to posters, fumigation supplies and equipment, insecticides, uniforms and accessories for the workers, etc.

The work around disease prevention is greatly appreciated, especially since it’s aimed against threats as lethal dengue fever and leptospirosis. Probably no nation in the world makes such as intense effort in this area as does Cuba.

However, in the design of its realization, I think we take some measures that are counterproductive.

There’s no drawn-up plan for the days and times of fumigation. Crews can appear at your front door on any day and at any hour. You’ll simply get a knock — without notice — and someone, usually without the common courtesy of “saying good afternoon, will give you what amounts to an order: “We’re going to fumigate.”

If you’re not occupied and agree to the work, they’ll have you close all the windows and doors before they begin spraying, which requires you to stay out of the unit for 30 to 45 minutes while the toxic smoke slowly fades.

But if you’re busy — either preparing food, about to take a bath, sleeping, attending to visitors or in front of the PC trying to piece together some idea — the intrusion is of course annoying, but you can always ask: “Is it possible for you to come back a little later?”

What you’ll almost always get for an answer though is that they have a schedule, and have to go from house to house.”

However, if the lead person is in a good mood, they may ask to take a quick look inside your house and will note that your place was recently fumigated. They’ll then give the shush sign with their index finger placed vertically over their lips and neither you nor they will have any problems.

If the comrade is stubborn and you more adamantly attempt to assert your right not to allow them in to fumigate, (at least at that time or that specific day) then they being with the threats.

You’ll undoubtedly here, “Well, you’re asking for a fine.” And if that bothers you even more, they’ll whip out lines like, “You’re going to end up being accused of propagating epidemics, which could be interpreted as a political problem.”

Of course when faced with such nonsense, all you can do is to realize the complete lack of rights and freedoms you have. Even though you value the appropriateness and need for the fumigating work, you don’t want an ill-timed and unannounced intrusion screwing up your life.

In sum, if the comrades of the Aedes aegypti Campaign are unwelcome in their fumigation visit, you have only two choices: You can stop whatever you’re doing and let them go ahead, since you’re not even the head of your own house; or you can assert your right of ownership and pay a fine, though this could also wind up subjecting you to legal prosecution.

And so if there is anyone who didn’t understand, this is why some people get bothered by the fumigation.

 

 


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

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