Last November, 345 “Zika Warriors” took to the streets of Jamaica to fight the spread of the Zika virus in 30 communities. These local residents trained as vector control aides to prevent Zika primarily by improving waste management in their communities, including cleaning up public spaces and destroying mosquito breeding sites. In addition, they distributed bed nets to pregnant households.
As we observe World Health Day today, we look back with great thanks to the significant reduction in Zika in these communities. Anecdotal evidence suggested that the Zika Warriors significantly stemmed the spread of the virus, especially compared to the 2014 Chikungunya outbreak that led Jamaica to declare a state of emergency.
As a first responder to the pandemic, the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) designed this program within an existing waste management program of the World Bank’s Integrated Community Development Project, directly benefitting more than 140,000 citizens.
Up until recently, if someone asked us what the most important benefits of solid waste management were, we would have said improving public health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or helping with drainage in cities.
When we landed in Kingston a couple months ago to prepare for the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP), we became aware of another benefit of improving solid waste management: reducing crime. We found that uncollected bulky waste such as laundry machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, and tree stumps could be used to block roads – and that glass bottles and other waste could be used as weapons.