Fumigating Havana for the Aedis Egypti mosquito. Photo: Caridad

By Irina Echarry

The smoke billows out of the apartments as if there were a fire burning in every home, as if nothing were more important than attacking the enemy.  “The enemy” has been the driving force behind many things on the island.  In this case the enemy is a mosquito: the Aedes egypti.

After the smoke there are no ashes; nonetheless, the floor remains covered with a viscous liquid which anyone could slip on, not to mention the sneezes and the gasping for air from the asthmatics and those who have allergies.

It’s true that this unhappy insect presents a problem for humans, especially when it finds water and garbage to survive in.  The fumigation seeks to eliminate these mosquitoes that cause dengue fever. It forms part of the campaign against disease vectors that the country is carrying out with the goal of improving the hygiene and peoples’ health.

That could be a wonderful thing

At certain unspecified times you have to open the doors of your house to strangers who penetrate even into the most hidden corners, inspecting the recipients with standing water.  Those people, for the most part, have had to leave their jobs for a few days to join the Campaign.  For this reason, because they are doing something that they have no desire to do, they often don’t treat others in the best manner.

In addition, I don’t know why they come at such inopportune times.  They arrive at any moment of the day: at 8 in the morning when everyone is ready to leave the house, or at 6 in the evening when the family has returned ready to eat, tend to the children or simply to rest.  Then people question things like their right to privacy and to choose when they want to fumigate their own home.

Supposedly, this should be a service that one requests and then prepares for.  There are those who have old people in their home, or children who sleep at certain hours, or who may be sick.  There are also those who don’t want mosquitoes, but who would feel more comfortable if they were advised what day and at what time they were going to come and fumigate.

Many are reluctant to open their doors and submit to so many annoyances, because it’s no use fumigating the apartments if the streets are full of sewage runoff, something very attractive to the mosquitoes.

The other dilemma belongs to the fumigators themselves who have to face the disgruntled looks of the tenants in the fumigated housing or their delay in opening their doors.  Without even taking into consideration something extremely important – that they don’t have any kind of respiratory protection at all against the mixture of vapor and insecticide that they leave in the air while they go upstairs and downstairs with the heavy spray pack on their back or carried on one arm, according to the model.

The sanitation authorities have clarified that the concentrations of insecticide used are designed only to eliminate the mosquitoes, although it’s possible that some other insects could be affected as well.  But if a person is exposed to chemicals over a long period, this could do them some harm as well.

The subject of mosquitoes is complex.  You’d have to think of something less socially involved, less massive.  Each human being is different and it may be true that you can’t take each one into consideration when making plans or laws that may save them or affect them; but, yes, you should take into consideration their different opinions in order to improve an action that is supposedly being carried out for the good of everyone.

One thought on “Fumigation

  • Sounds like a real organizational problem; but clearly it is not being handled at the local level properly — like so many things in socialist Cuba, from what I gather reading this site. But AFAIC: this entire process should be going thru neighborhood councils — which should be responsible for organizing everything on this level.

    To the extent that such work involves coordinating outside, state resources, the councils should be representing the interests of their constituency with whatever government ministries are concerned with the overall organization of the program. And not only must these undertakings be organized weeks in advance — so that everyone is ready for them — but all the other issues should be addressed as well: the garbage lying around, and all the other pressing, chronic matters you mention or don’t mention.

    It’s a shame that poverty stops such organizing from getting started.

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