Drawing pre-schoolers into the battle against dengue

Photo above: Woodlands resident and artist Gail Pantin speaking to pre-schoolers about dengue and how to prevent its spread. She gets kids to make "mosquito" stickers and paste them on boards where she has drawn scenes of places in the home where mosquitos commonly breed.

SINGAPORE - The current dengue outbreak has the health authorities worried, but one resident is determined not to let the disease overrun her neighbourhood.

Her secret weapon? Kids.

Concerned by a dengue cluster near Woodlands Drive 50 where she lives, artist Gail Pantin, 53, is bringing her art into pre-schools to teach children that they, too, can help keep homes mosquito-free.

She draws scenes of places in homes where stagnant water commonly collects - bathrooms, potted plants, fish tanks - on boards, and gets the children to paste "mosquito" stickers where they think the insects could breed.

They can help spot potential breeding sites, said Ms Pantin.

"The (dengue) numbers keep rising and the kids get quite concerned. They ask me: 'What are we doing about it?' " she said.

A banner in the neighbourhood park displays the number of dengue cases in the cluster. It stood at 57 as of last Friday, which makes the area the second-largest cluster in the epidemic, after Telok Kurau.

The little ones have grown more observant since the sessions, said Ms Pantin.

Some have even begun spontaneously pointing out to her and their parents risk areas outside the home, such as clogged drains.

Her art sessions have reached more than 200 pre-schoolers in the neighbourhood in the past month.

Six-year-old Varsaah Thevaranjan, who was at a session last Wednesday, cited lessons learnt: "We must throw the water away fast before mosquitoes go inside. Put only a little bit of water in plant pots. Cover the toilet (cistern)."

Ms Kelly Chong, 44, the principal of a PAP Community Foundation kindergarten in Woodgrove, said: "Kids - if they learn well - can remind the adults."

Two weeks ago, 267 people islandwide were infected with dengue, a five-year weekly high.

The National Environment Agency has alerted the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force - which includes the Land Transport Authority, the Housing Board, the National Parks Board and town councils - to step up checks.


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