By Omar Bah
At least three opposition political parties have issued statements calling on the government to ensure that due diligence and action are taken over the death of 69 children due to Acute Kidney Injury, AKI.
The government of The Gambia came under immense pressure last week after the WHO issued a global alert on the death of 66 children in The Gambia linked to contaminated pharmaceuticals imported from a company in India. The news caused spontaneous anger among many Gambians who demanded answers as to how the products were allowed and distributed in the country. Among the most vocal voices are the civic society organisations and opposition political parties.
In a statement shared with The Standard, the UDP said: “This unfortunate incident reveals several weaknesses in our pre and post-natal healthcare system. Even before this unprecedented tragedy, infant and maternal mortalities in The Gambia have reached alarming proportions. The processes for the importation of medicines into the country have failed on this occasion. How did the officials at the regulatory body who are tasked with ensuring the population’s access to safe medicines allow the importation of these medications and their subsequent use? It is also evident that our laboratories were not able to conduct required tests, which unduly delayed the country’s ability to discover the problem earlier. The deepest concern is that these deaths may not reflect the total fatalities or other associated consequences of these contaminated medicines.” The UDP called on the government to determine the full scope of this national catastrophe to prevent its reoccurrence”.
The party added that what is clear from the publicly available information is that the medical authorities charged with the responsibility of regulating the importation, testing and distribution of pharmaceuticals have failed in their duties, and the consequences are the heart-wrenching loss of precious young lives.
The Gambia Democratic Congress, GDC, said: “The Ministry of Health as well as the Medicines Control Agency and the Pharmacy Council including other related health bodies must be held accountable for this as they are entrusted with the lives of poor Gambians and sadly the country’s image is tainted with no hope in our health sector. “The questions on everyone’s mind now are how did these syrups pass the regulatory procedures only to greet our children with untimely deaths? What assurance do we have that there are no bad medicines in the market? Is the reported 66 deaths the right number? Our health sector should have been conventionally regarded as an important sector in promoting social well-being but it has turned into a death-trap where confidence is totally lost due to the lack of accountability, transparency and it is sad to say that these 66 children have paid the highest price of corruption with their lives,” the party added.
The Citizens’ Alliance in a statement on Saturday said: “While we commend the government for probing the circumstances leading to the death of the deceased children, we strongly call on the state to hold all those found culpable fully accountable for their actions and inactions. We equally and strongly advise the government to put in place mechanisms to track all those who took the drugs recently and save them from irreparable damage.
We implore on the government to seriously undertake the necessary reform of the entire health sector and ensure the award of medical and pharmaceutical licenses are stringently regulated and standardised in line with best practices and international standards. We also urge the government to enhance the capacity of healthcare workers to enable them to effectively and efficiently carry out their duties. Government should also build the human and technical capacity of the healthcare system to ensure the medical safety of all Gambians.” Similar calls for accountability came from the APRC- Babili Mansa faction and the Gambia For All, GFA.