By Chidi Emmanuel & Nawara Fattahova

Rats are becoming a disturbing urban problem. Parts of Maliya and Mirqab in Kuwait City are ravaged by rodents. Owing to the speed at which rats breed, a minor infestation that is not dealt with quickly can soon become a major invasion. Some abandoned and dilapidated properties and restaurants offer an ideal habitat for rats, and once they have settled in, they reproduce rapidly.

These little creatures are now becoming more brazen and are beginning to infest places where they are usually not found, such as residential and office buildings. Garbage on the streets and areas behind restaurants and cafes means there is lots of food available for the local rat population, thus making them more visible.

Some residents have expressed concern as rats run rampant in their neighborhoods. The rodent control department of the ministry of health deals with rats and inspects infested areas. According to Fawzi, one of the inspectors there, the department has recently received hundreds of phone calls from people reporting rats or mice around houses. "We receive lots of calls daily from residents complaining about rats. Most calls come from areas including the capital and Sulaibiya. Our call centers deal with the complaints as soon as possible," he told Kuwait Times.

"Apart from reports from people, our inspectors do go on daily inspections to all the 42 areas across Kuwait. We focus on residential areas, such as Shamiya, Dahiyat Abdullah Al-Salem, Faiha and others. They also go to crowded areas such as Mirqab, Bneid Al-Gar and Khaitan. We usually use poison through a bait hanging on a wire in manholes. Sometimes, inspectors set traps in areas where people have reported seeing rats," Fawzi explained.

Next to some shops near the justice ministry in Mirqab, a resident said rodents are burrowing into the ground and under nearby buildings. "Surprisingly, we are getting used to them. They move around freely. It is quite unfortunate that Kuwait City is gradually becoming the dirtiest capital city in the Gulf region," Kumar lamented.

In Khaitan, Mohammed Ahmed pointed at a place he calls "the home of rats". "Rats are even finding their way into houses these days. I even saw some of them on my couch," he said. With the onset of winter, neighbors fear rats will get more desperate. "Some of these rats are seen in filthy areas and in dilapidated buildings.

Also, excessive food waste and leftovers dumped in these areas has led to an increase in the number of rats," said Julius Hans, a Salmiya resident.

Some shop owners and residents have urged the rodent control department to tackle the rising rat population in Kuwait. Here are the numbers to call to report rodent cases: 24840328 or 24848088 (from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm).