KUCHING: Sarawak, which has allocated RM22.8 million this year in the fight against rabies, is working closely with the federal government to curb the disease in the state, deputy chief minister Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said on Wednesday (Jan 23).
He said the disease had been and was being fought in close collaboration between the state and federal agencies as well as various non-governmental organisations since the outbreak on Jul 4, 2017.
The federal agencies are the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), the Ministry of Health, Department of Veterinary Services in Putrajaya, the police, military, Fire Rescue Department, Civil Defence Force, among others.
“We are certainly not taking things lightly when it concerns the lives of our people. We are not working in a silo," said Uggah, who is the chairman of the State Disaster Management Committee.
He was responding to a recent statement made by PKR 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 urged the state to take the opportunity of deputy health minister Lee Boon Chye's visit to Kuching on Friday to do so.
However, Uggah said, he understood See's concern, and added that 12 co-ordination meetings with all the relevant federal and state departments were held in 2017 while five meetings were held last year.
On Oct 30, 2018, the rabies situation was part of the agenda in the Central Disaster Management Committee meeting chaired by deputy prime minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, he said.
"I had also raised the issue with Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Salahuddin Ayub as well," said Uggah, adding that to date the fight had cost the state government over RM20 million.
He said that as rabies was included in the National Animal Disease Control and Eradication Programme, the Department of Veterinary Services in Putrajaya had also assisted the state by providing 180 officers for surveillance, formulate effective containment strategies and determine the buffer and immune zones.
"It had supplied 80,000 doses of rabies vaccine, conducted rabies testing at the Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh and training for the setting up of the state’s own veterinary diagnostic laboratory,” he said.
Uggah said plans were now under way to vaccinate and microchip some 157,000 or 70 per cent of the estimated 225,000 dog population in the state, with 109,216 or 33 per cent already vaccinated so far.
He said NADMA has also proposed for an integrated sweeping operation which includes the targeted removal of stray and free roaming dogs in all 60 affected areas state-wide this year.
"Thus, it is not right to say we are not working together with the federal government over this serious issue," he said.
"We have also collaborated with the World Health Organisation, Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and Save Our Strays (SOS) to curb the rabies disease.”