The Drop-in Centre

News that an inspection done on Tuesday morning showed signs of cleanliness at the Hadfield Street Drop-in Centre was indeed welcome. It is hoped, for the sake of the children who stay there, that this state of affairs continues.

The inspection followed an article published in the Tuesday edition of this newspaper, titled, ‘Deplorable conditions, poor care at Drop-in Centre,’ after more than a month of investigation, which included speaking anonymously to volunteers and staff at the centre and seeking permission to visit from Head of the Child Care and Protection Agency, Ann Greene and the Ministry of Social Protection. The investigation began in November after several persons shared, on social media, a photograph of a child’s arm with a series of marks, which it was claimed was a result of cockroach bites.

Although that photo was widely shared and Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence was tagged in it, it evoked no response from anyone in authority. There were several outraged responses from persons who volunteered at the centre, concurring that the state of the facilities left a lot to be desired and condemning same.

There is no doubt, however, that this exposure coupled with the questions being asked of authority figures by Stabroek News’s reporter sparked the improvements that were seen at the Drop-in Centre on Tuesday. Suddenly, the centre was open and the media could walk through and take photos. One hopes that this state of affairs is also maintained and that the volunteers and staff who spoke out are not banned from the facility or penalized in any way.

Congratulations are in order to the Care Centre’s Manager Melissa Gentle and her staff for getting the facility in order, though it is disturbing that it came via the route it did.

As regards the roach infestation, Ms Gentle, who says she is new to the position, has been misinformed. The Drop-in Centre has had an ongoing problem with German cockroaches, which are notoriously difficult to control. “A few small roaches about the building,” which Ms Gentle said existed, points to an infestation. It means that there are nests in hard-to-reach cracks and crevices. Added to which, it is not acceptable to have a few small roaches about any building, much less one operating as a care centre for children.

Roaches spread diseases including food poisoning, dysentery and diarrhoea. The organisms that cause these diseases are carried on the legs and bodies of cockroaches and are deposited on surfaces, food and utensils. In addition, cockroach excrement and the skin shed by the insects cause allergic responses in humans such as skin rashes, watery eyes and sneezing, congestion of nasal passages and in extreme cases, asthma.

Aside from the fact that Baygon and other pesticide sprays are poisonous and therefore hazardous, especially to children, they serve to disperse the roaches, making control even more difficult. Bait and insecticidal dusts are far more effective, but these should be applied by professionals.

Also key to controlling any pest problem is sanitation, and that means cleaning up every crumb of spilled food, not leaving dishes overnight, emptying garbage and storing all food that could be bitten by the roaches in airtight containers, including sacks of flour and sugar and cookies and crackers that come in cardboard boxes. It also means policing the children in the facility to ensure that they do not take snacks to bed with them at night as well as making certain that they wash their hands and faces (as well as brush their teeth) before retiring, as roaches have been known to eat crumbs, grease or sugar stuck to the faces and hands of humans.

It is to be hoped as well that all care facilities which fall under the mandate of the Ministry of Social Protection will likewise be thoroughly inspected and cleaned and that there will be constant monitoring of these as well as the private orphanages and children’s homes around the country. There is or should be a monitoring committee in place, but it had been discovered, after issues with children running away from the Camal Home in Berbice, that the committee was not operating as it should.

Finally, since the mandate of the Drop-In Centre has obviously changed and it is officially a children’s home, perhaps it’s time to drop the ‘Drop-In’ from its name.

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