Public Says ‘Negligence’ Of Authorities Caused Death of 66 Children

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Minister of health, Dr. Samateh

By: Foday Manneh

Gambia has made it to the International news headlines following a global health alert issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.

UN WHO warned about four cough and cold syrups that could be linked to the reported deaths of 66 children in the small West African country.

The medical products identified by the WHO are Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup, and Magrip N Cold Syrup.

The syrups have been potentially linked with Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) among children in the Gambia. According to research, AKI is a sudden decrease in kidney function to complete kidney failure that develops within seven days.

According to UN WHO, the syrups are said to have been manufactured by an Indian company, Maiden Pharmaceuticals, which had failed to provide guarantees about their safety.

To gauge public reaction to this development, TAT spoke to several people, including public health practitioners and rights activists, many of whom blame the Gambian authorities for being negligent and call for accountability and justice for the victims.

“Losing 66 children to Acute Kidney Injuries due to contamination of syrups is not only unfortunate but a clear manifestation of incompetence and carelessness on the side of the relevant authorities.” Dawda Nenegalleh Jallow, a public health practitioner, said.

“In all honesty, the Minister of Health and the Executive Director of the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) should all give way to competent people to handle those positions,” he added.

Alhagie Sillah, a nurse, said the death of the 66 children was due to “gross negligence.” “Imagine, a so-called pharmaceutical company that is not licensed was allowed to sell its products only in The Gambia, not even in India where they are manufactured. It is pathetic.”

A Gambian human rights activist, Madi Jobarteh, has called for investigation and accountability in the matter, saying, “these 66 innocent children should not perish for what is not their fault. They have the right to live and good healthcare, but these rights have been violated.

“Their parents bought these medicines with a strong belief that the medicines in this country are safe. But, apparently, they have been betrayed by the system.”

Mariama Jallow, a mother, said fear of using any specific syrup has forced people to give traditional medicines to their children, which they now believe could be safer than conventional medicines.

Ahmad Tijan Bah, another public member, said the Medicines Control Agency “should be held accountable for the death of the 66 children because they failed to do their job by preventing what happened.”

Musa Touray, another person, said the tragedy could have been prevented or minimized if the government had brought in standard medications.

He described the deaths of the 66 children as akin to losing people who could have been future Cabinet ministers, presidents, and lawyers “all due to utter negligence.”

Touray suggested installing functional quality control measures at the land, air, and sea borders to detect any sub-standard drugs entering the country.

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