BANJUL, The Gambia (HPD) — The Gambia has launched an urgent door-to-door campaign to eliminate certain cough and cold syrups believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 60 children from kidney damage in the small West African country.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the director of health, Dr. Mustapha Bittaye, confirmed the wave of childhood deaths from acute kidney injury, a news that shocked many of the 2.4 million people who live in the country, as well as to the world.
The World Health Organization issued an alarm in response to the deaths, saying it is working with the Gambian government to investigate the cause of deaths since August.
“The WHO has issued a medical product alert for four contaminated drugs identified in The Gambia that have been potentially linked to acute kidney injury and 66 deaths among children,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Wednesday. “The loss of young lives is beyond heartbreaking for their families.”
The four drugs listed are cough and cold syrups produced in India by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited, the WHO said.
Although the contaminated products have only been detected in The Gambia so far, they may have been distributed to other countries, the WHO warned. The UN health agency said it is conducting investigations with the company and regulatory authorities in India.
“The WHO recommends that all countries detect and remove these products from circulation to prevent further harm to patients,” he said.
In collaboration with the Gambian Red Cross Society, the Gambian Ministry of Health has sent hundreds of young people to collect the suspected syrups through a door-to-door campaign.
The Gambia Medical Research Council has also issued an alarm.