Zamboanga City adopts ‘rat for rice’ to curb leptospirosis cases
ZAMBOANGA CITY—The local government has offered a kilo of rice for every rat that a resident will catch, as the city enlists the help of villagers in curbing the rising number of leptospirosis infections.
Beginning on April 23, residents can get their pack of rice for every rat, either dead or alive, that they bring to a designated collection center run by the City Environment and Natural Resources Office.
Belen Sheila Covarrubias, public information officer of the city government, said the “rat for rice” program was conceived by Mayor John Dalipe to control the proliferation of rodents, especially in the villages of Tumaga, Guiwan, Pasonanca, Mampang, Tetuan, Tugbungan and Ayala where cases of leptospirosis were found to have increased this year.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the Leptospira spirochetes bacteria that spread through rat urine.
Dr. Dulce Amor Miravite, city health officer, said they recorded a total of 166 leptospirosis cases in 2022 with 27 deaths, which was 768 percent higher compared to 2021. Sixty-nine or 42 percent of the 166 cases were recorded after the city was hit by Typhoon “Paeng,” which caused flooding across a number of villages.
As of March 4 this year, 57 cases, with seven deaths, were reported. Most cases were reported within two weeks after the March 11 and March 31 flooding, according to the City Health Office.
In Barangay Tetuan, village chief Walmart Atilano said the program, which runs until Saturday, gathered steam by the third day of its rollout.
“At first, residents [felt] a bit awkward,” he noted, adding that nine people participated on the first day, then four on the second, then 16 on the third.
Tetuan recorded eight leptospirosis cases since January, but no one had died.
Efigenio Julian Jr., village chair of Pasonanca, told the Inquirer that residents managed to turn in 15 rats since April 23.
“I know we have many rats here, given the number of leptospirosis cases, but that is not enough to address the problem. Perhaps the residents are still afraid to hold a rat or catch one,” Julian said in an interview.
But Julian suspected that the residents were not doing enough due to the quality of rice given as an incentive.
“What they get is a kilo of NFA (National Food Authority) rice to one rat. Some residents here don’t like the quality of the rice,” he added.
Jacqueline Lim, village chair of Tumaga, said only a handful of residents in her community participated in the campaign even as barangay personnel did a massive information drive.
She said that since April 23, only three rats were brought in by three residents. “I guess they don’t like the quality of rice because it has a foul smell and is yellowish. If we give them [top] quality rice, perhaps many will actively participate in catching rats,” Lim said.
Tumaga recorded six deaths due to leptospirosis among the 15 residents who fell ill.