We Barbadians are a dirty lot.
And it comes as no surprise that cases of chikungunya are on the rise and perhaps destined to continue.
Health officials say there are 49 confirmed cases and 200 suspected instances of the virus. Of course, these are reported cases. Officials have admitted that some Barbadians are self-medicating, thus the cases are likely to be higher than the figures mentioned.
Engaging in unsanitary and criminally dirty practices seems not to be the exception in Barbados. It has long become the rule. Being dirty has become so cultural that when people are caught by authorities committing the crime of illegal dumping, they are not made to retrieve their waste, are not prosecuted, but merely allowed to go on their way. More than likely, as though travelling through some galaxy, dirty Barbadians then seek out new dumping spots or boldly go where others like themselves have gone before.
Sno-cone cups flying through bus windows, paper napkins tossed from cars, empty pet bottles injudiciously escaping the grasp of motorists, pedestrians, spectators, bicyclists, are all as common a sight as a Sanitation Service Authority worker emptying a garbage container into a truck and not worrying to pick up the pieces that might have fallen onto the streets.
Refrigerators, washing machines, stoves, mattresses, carpets, chairs and tables that once adorned homes in their pomp, become part of the ambience of gullies, waterways and canefields when their usefulness and newness wane.
Dead canines and felines remain on the spot where they expired, whether in the middle of a dirt track in some obscure village in St. Lucy or an often traversed roadway at busy Bank Hall. The occasional white lime might be thrown to cover both the sight and stench of our shame, but there that dead dog or cat will remain until its cover meshes with the earth.
Barbadians leave the sanctity of their homes, armed with their bags of waste, and head furtively to the properties of others where they dispose of their discomfort without a second thought for that of their victims.
Plastic bags filled with garbage are daily placed beside the streets, welcoming stray animals to have their play. Sardine tots, baby pampers, sanitary napkins, an old shoe here, a tattered shirt there, and a few unpaid bills then become part of the traffic on the road, waiting only for rainfall to escort them into gutters already clogged by another’s similar mistake.
Workers cut grass, trim hedges, leave the dead shrub to be picked up the following day, which often in reality is the following year. This drying vegetation too waits on the falling rain to take it where the other refuse reigns.
No street in the city is clean. No gully in the country is clear. Cleaning work done early on mornings by sweepers in town is quickly undone by morons before sunset. Mosquitoes find palatial accommodation within the precincts of private homes, public offices, schools, churches, hospitals, polyclinics, health spas, supermarkets, mini-markets, doctors’ offices, restaurants and brothels,
Prospective homeowners escavate land to erect homes and don’t. Instead, they create stagnant pools where larvae thrive and then mosquitoes smile. And those homes, abandoned, decrepit and decaying, ignored by their owners, provide safe haven for mosquitoes and other vermin to compete in comfort for space and ensure that their short lifespan is not without adventure.
And the message is the same every year. The newspapers, the radio, the television, all repeat the same information. So many and so many cases of dengue fever; now so many and so many instances of chikungunya; do not litter; do not leave containers exposed to collect stagnant water; keep premises clean; debush around the homes; dispose of garbage properly; desist from illegal dumping. But does anyone really listen?
Then the seasonal rains come, flooding follows, and we complain about our very own sins.
Chikungunya and dengue are not really the problem; we indifferent, dirty Barbadians are.