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'Fix the System': Indonesia Parents Seek Justice after Cough Syrup Crisis

March 2, 2023, 05.37 PM

JAKARTA, - Dinosaur-themed birthday decorations still hang on the walls of Safitri Puspa Rani's Indonesian home, where the family celebrated their youngest son's birthday last year.

"Knock knock! Hey everyone! It's my eighth birthday!" said a beaming Panghegar Bhumi in a video in September, while making a heart-shaped gesture with his arms.

A month later he died from acute kidney injury, days after a doctor prescribed him a cough syrup containing ingredients that have been linked to more than 200 child deaths in Indonesia, according to the country's health ministry.

"I whispered in his ears: 'The medicine is coming, please hang in there a little bit more'," Rani said, crying in her home in West Java province as she recalled the final days of her son's life.

"But I lied, there was no medicine."

Also read: Infant Dies from Acute Kidney Injury in Indonesia

The 42-year-old mother is among more than two dozen Indonesian families seeking justice for their children, whom they allege were either killed or sickened by contaminated cough syrups.

Their class-action lawsuit targets the country's health ministry, food, and drug agency, and eight companies they accuse of selling the syrups – which the World Health Organization said contain an "unacceptable amount" of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

"These contaminants are toxic chemicals used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents that can be fatal even taken in small amounts, and should never be found in medicines," the WHO said in January.

Since October last year, the WHO has issued alerts for The Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan over syrups containing the two chemicals.

Five-year-old Farrazka was required to undergo dialysis for his failing kidneys after he took one of the medicines, his mother Indah Septian told AFP.

Also readIndonesia to Receive Antidotes for Acute Kidney Injury from Japan Next Week

"When I heard that he had to have dialysis, I was so confused and did not know what to do. He is just a kid," Septian said at her home.

"Now he gets easily fatigued even when he only does a bit of activity," the 31-year-old said.

But Septian and her husband Riski Agri consider themselves luckier than other families.

Source AFP

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