We have been collaborating with Putrajaya, NGOs to fight rabies — Uggah

Uggah (centre) chairing a meeting with various agencies and departments to prepare for a proposed integrated sweeping operation. Also seen are Dr Sim (left) and Jaul.

KUCHING, Jan 23: Sarawak has all along been and is still working closely with the federal government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to curb the rabies outbreak in the state.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas stressed that the state government would never take things lightly as the matter concerned people’s lives.

“We are not working in silos. The fight has been ongoing and in collaboration with federal agencies. We had 12 coordination meetings with all the relevant federal and state departments and agencies in 2017. Last year, we had five meetings,” he said.

Among the federal agencies involved are the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), Ministry of Health (MoH), Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) Putrajaya, police, military, Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba), Civil Defence Force (APM) and others since the disease outbreak on July 4, 2017.

Uggah, who is the State Disaster Management Committee chairman, was responding to a recent statement by Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who had urged the state government to propose a joint federal-state effort to control and eradicate rabies.

See had also advised the state government to take the opportunity of Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye’s coming visit to Kuching to do so.

Uggah elaborated that its committee deputy chairman, Datu Jaul Samion, had briefed Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on the rabies situation during the Central Disaster Management Committee meeting that she chaired on Oct 30 last year.

“I had also raised the issue with the present Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Salahuddin Ayub,” he added.

Furthermore, he said DVS Putrajaya had also assisted the state by providing officers for surveillance as rabies was included in the National Animal Disease Control and Eradication programme.

“It had supplied 80,000 doses of rabies vaccine, conducted rabies testing at the Veterinary Research Institute (VRI) in Ipoh and training for the setting up of the state own veterinary diagnostic laboratory,” he explained.

“Its director-general Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam had, at the onset of the outbreak, deployed 180 staff members to the state.”

Uggah (at the head of the table) listening to feedback compiled from a three-day workshop held earlier to discuss a proposed integrated sweeping operation.

In addition, Uggah said DVS experts, too, had come to help with the surveillance programme and to formulate effective containment strategies as well as to determine the buffer and immune zones.

“To date, the fight had cost the state government more than RM20 million. This year, we have allocated RM22.8 million. Among others, our plan now is to vaccinate and microchip some 157,000 or 70 per cent of the estimated 225,000 dog population in the state,” he highlighted.

“We have managed to vaccinate 109,216 or 33 per cent so far,” he said, while informing that NADMA was helping again this year.

Uggah shared that its director-general, Datuk Mohtar Mohd Abd Rahman, had, during a meeting early this year, proposed for an integrated sweeping operation, which included the targetted removal of stray and free-roaming dogs in all 60 affected areas statewide.

“Thus, it is not right to say we are not working together with the federal government over this serious issue. We have also collaborated with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Sarawak Society for The Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and Save Our Strays (SOS),” he said while noting See’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Uggah chaired a meeting yesterday to hear feedback from a three-day workshop held earlier to discuss and fine-tune preparations for the proposed integrated sweeping operation.

Some 359 people from NADMA, police, military, Civil Defence Department, General Operation Force, local authorities, Information Department, Health Department, Rela as well as Putrajaya and Sarawak Departments of Veterinary Services will participate in the operation.

Also taking part will be a team from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and others.

Uggah hoped dog owners, especially those in Kuching city, would give their closest cooperation to the operation.

Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, Jaul, NADMA deputy director-general of operations Zakaria Shaaban, First Infantry Division commander Major General Datuk Toh Choon Siang, Deputy Commissioner of Police DCP Dato’ Pahlawan Mohd Dzuraidi Ibrahim as well as representatives from various agencies were present at the meeting. — DayakDaily