By Edrissa Jallow
The Chairperson of the bereaved families of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), Ebrima Sagnia has confirmed to Gainako in an exclusive interview that many families have returned the cheque given to them at the Governor’s office in Brikama and instead demanded justice from the government.
The interview took place at the National Assembly on the same day that Victims meet Parliament’s Select Committee on Health, Disaster, Humanitarian Relief and Refugees on 9th November 2022. It can be recalled that Parliament has been investigating the death of at least 70 Children from AKI which the WHO says was caused by four medicines from the Indian Company, Maiden Pharmaceuticals.
Chairman Sagnia who is also the father of an AKI victim informed our reporter that the Governers Office contacted the mothers of the victims in a closed-door meeting where they were each given a cheque worth fourteen thousand two hundred and eighty-five dalasi (D14,285). However, he urged each to return the cheque and fight for justice for their children.
“As the chairperson, I ordered each one of them to return the cheque given at the governor’s office and not a force. Because I don’t want to force any of them to return the cheque when they need it” said Mr Sagnia.
During the interview with our reporter, Mr Sagnia also confirmed that only a few families of AKI victims were able to attend the meeting at the governor’s office as other Families were unreachable.
“We want to implore on the government to equip the health facilities with standard medicines, testing machines and professional health personnel, so if you [Families of AKI Victims] are to collect the cheque, is like the justice we are fighting for we are no more fighting for it”.
After having that discussion with family victims, according to the Chairperson, many obliged and voluntarily returned the cheque which he says he confirmed with the Governor’s office.
Mr Sagnia urged those “cheques to be to support the AKI patients who are currently in a serious condition so they will not also lose their lives like how our children died”.
“Victims deserve to have Justice, we want the government to tell us how these drugs came into this country, who imported them? Was it tested? Where was it tested? When was it tested? Who tested it until it was declared safe for consumption? We (victims) are interested to know this,” Mr Sagnia highlights.
Similarly, the Gambia Bar Association and the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia issued statements on 10th October 2022 calling on the Government “to take its responsibility as [the] primary protector of the citizenry to investigate this tragic incident and thereafter take steps to ensure appropriate measures are taken to hold those responsible accountable”.
Chairperson Sagnia took the opportunity to clarify that their association is not an “enemy of the government” nor the Ministers but rather the intention is that “where our children passed through we don’t want any other Gambian child to pass through”.
Narrating the unfortunate death of his child, Mr Sagnia, says his child was admitted to the main referral Hospital in Banjul five days before his death. However, with the days spent at the hospital they “were not able to secure any medicine from the hospital”.
According to his narration, medical practitioners wrote some drugs to be bought which he was able to purchase at Kairaba Pharmacy located in Banjul and some at Stop Step Pharmacy located in Westfield.
Government Officers Should Stop Inviting Victims Individually
The association submitted a position paper before Parliament’s Select Committee on Health, Disaster, Humanitarian Relief and Refugees, condemning officials from inviting individual parents of AKI victims. The position paper dated Thursday 3rd November 2022 debunks a statement from the Medicine Control Agency (MCA) noting that their “children died not because of the floods or contaminated water. Rather they died and got sick from taking tainted cough syrups”.
It could be recalled that on Monday 31st October 2022, the MCA held a press conference at its office claiming that some children did not die as a result of AKI rather they died as a result of consuming contaminated water.
Bereaved AKI family members “demanded for officials to stop calling and inviting victims to various places individually. We demand that if the Government intends to do or say anything to victims [let them] go through our leadership. We object to selective solutions. It’s either a solution provided to all victims but not to any single victim,” highlighted on the position paper.
The position paper signed by both the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson, Mariama Sisawo also frowned on the government’s failure to invite bereaved family members to console them. The Family victims say they have been “severely hurt and neglected by the government” since the outbreak of the AKI.
“Until now neither the President nor the Minister [has] called victims to a meeting to speak to [them] and console them,” noted the position paper.