Indonesia child deaths blamed on syrups rise to 133

“We have identified 241 cases of acute kidney injury in 22 provinces.”

October 21, 2022 10:56 pm | Updated 10:56 pm IST - Jakarta

A clown carries a placard reading “Avoid medicinal syrups with ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol” during campaign on acute kidney injury (AKI) awareness along with students at a school in Bandung, West Java province, Indonesia, October 21, 2022, in this photo taken by Antara Foto.

A clown carries a placard reading “Avoid medicinal syrups with ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol” during campaign on acute kidney injury (AKI) awareness along with students at a school in Bandung, West Java province, Indonesia, October 21, 2022, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The number of child deaths from acute kidney injuries in Indonesia has risen to 133, the health minister said Friday, attributing the fatalities to harmful substances found in medicinal syrups.

Indonesia saw a spike in acute kidney injury (AKI) cases this year, prompting a probe and ban on all syrup and liquid medicine prescriptions and sales.

"We have identified 241 cases of acute kidney injury in 22 provinces, with 133 fatalities," Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a press conference.

Mr. Budi said authorities found traces of harmful substances in children being treated for AKI.

“Seven out of 11 children had that harmful substance: ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol butyl ether.”

"It is confirmed that (AKI) was caused by (those) substances."

The World Health Organization said this month that it found an "unacceptable amount" of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol in four Indian-made cough syrups that were linked to the deaths of nearly 70 children in The Gambia due to AKI.

Indonesian authorities found traces of similar substances in 102 syrup medicines in the homes of affected children, Mr. Budi said.

Mr. Budi said the ban on all syrup and liquid medicine prescriptions and over-the-counter sales — announced Wednesday — will be narrowed to those 102 products.

Most AKI cases reported in Indonesia this year involved children under five years old, according to the ministry's data.

Before the recent rise, the ministry typically saw two or five cases of AKI a month.

Budi said some AKI patients improved after health authorities trialled an antidote imported from Singapore, adding more will be procured for distribution across Indonesia.

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