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Zika awareness targeted at foreign domestic workers

SINGAPORE — Efforts are underway to spread awareness of Zika, and how to prevent mosquito breeding, among foreign domestic workers (FDWs), who are at the frontline of the fight against the virus, with most breeding grounds found at home.

Zika awareness targeted at foreign domestic workers

Yatimah Warsono (foreground, in red), 40, a housewife and volunteer at the CDE, and Jessica (background), 30, senior executive at CDE, distribute brochures and explain about the Zika virus to foreign domestic workers. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Efforts are underway to spread awareness of Zika, and how to prevent mosquito breeding, among foreign domestic workers (FDWs), who are at the frontline of the fight against the virus, with most breeding grounds found at home.

On Sunday afternoon (Sept 11), the Centre for Domestic Employees, which sets up a weekly mobile kiosk at areas where FDWs congregate, gave out pamphlets with information on Zika to FDWs at Toa Payoh Town Park.

“Our foreign domestic workers play a significant role in our households because they’re the ones who are actually the guardians of the homes, while their employers go to work,” said CDE executive director (strategy) Shamsul Kamar.

“So that’s why we feel it’s important for us to reach out to them to create this awareness, as well as teach them the five Mozzie Wipeout strategies, so they can support their employers.”

Such outreach efforts to spread the message at popular congregation areas will be stepped up, he said.

“If we’re able to help our FDWs better understand the content, they’ll be even more effective in ensuring that the households they’re working for are kept safe, and reduce mosquito breeding. Most importantly, their employers have peace of mind,” he added.

Earlier this month, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli noted that the majority of breeding sites continue to be found in homes, with the rest in common areas.

FDWs interviewed on Sunday were mostly aware of the Zika outbreak, as their employers had informed them, they said. They have also been tasked with stepping up their cleaning and checking the plants at home.

Ms Josie Sup, 29, whose employer’s residence is a landed property, said: “I even have to clean the drain outside the home now. I clean it every week because my employer told me if not, it’s risky.”

Ms Asrien Srikustinah, 38, said: “My employer would tell me to throw away any buckets of water left over from mopping. I also have to change the water in vases every morning.”

The CDE also gave an update on Sunday on its Mobile CDE initiative, which is intended to make advice relating to foreign domestic employment issues more accessible to FDWs.

It has had three sessions so far, with an outreach to 100 FDWs. It will now be deployed at congregation areas weekly, up from bi-monthly since its launch in late July.

If necessary, the Mobile CDE will reach out to FDWs during the weekdays, for instance at employment agencies where there are workers in transit or who have just arrived in Singapore, said Mr Kamar.

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