By: Foday Manneh
Amid growing public anger in the Gambia over 69 child deaths and a viciously acute kidney injury crisis, the country’s Health Minister has rebuffed calls to resign as the government moves to control rising children’s mortality linked to the use of four India-made cough and cold syrups.
Updating the press on the latest developments in the AKI saga on Saturday, Health Minister Dr. Amadou Samateh conceded the child deaths are a case of “negligence” by his Ministry.
Dr. Samateh, however, rejected calls for his resignation “as an easy way out.”
“Why do you want me to resign? What benefits would my resignation make? The Minister asked in a press conference.
“I am getting a lot of calls today, as some people had even speculated that I have resigned. However, if I resign, I am a competent surgeon with much to do. So it is not personal; resignation is an easy way out.”
Dr. Samateh said all the noise surrounding his work is because he has been closing doors for corrupt practices in the health sector, saying “the ministry’s mindset regarding accountability has changed.”
On Thursday, a WHO product alert warned against syrups produced by Indian company Maiden Pharma as a potential cause of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) leading to significant deaths among children in The Gambia.
The Minister revealed that the child death toll from AKI has increased from the initial sixty-six (66) deaths to sixty-nine (69) after three more mortalities were confirmed.
Samateh told journalists the WHO apologized to him for violating the protocol by announcing the test results before his Ministry, pending the effects of laboratory samples.
“I must tell you, the WHO regional director for Africa and her team and the country representative extended a message to me, apologizing because that was not the protocol,” Samateh said.
He added that the correct protocol was for health authorities to get laboratory results and make an announcement to the public and inform the WHO accordingly.
The Health Minister has further assured Gambians that what happened in the AKI tragedy will never be repeated in the country.