Saturday, December 3

Victims’ Centre chair says death of 69 children will be documented as atrocity

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Sheriff Kijera, the chairman of The Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations has claimed that the Programmes and Documentation Unit of the Victims’ Centre would document the death of 69 children in the country as a result of the Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) as “atrocities’ committed under this government.”

“We are going to document the death of the 69 children as atrocities that were committed under the Barrow government like we are documenting atrocities during the Jammeh’s regime. It’s now time to take action. We need to go to court. We should also make sure that we take the Pharmacy that imported the medicines in the country to the International Court of Justice. It’s time that we change our mind-set and partisan issues and look at the country first,” he said on Sunday during a press conference.

The convergence was organised by a group that named themselves as “Justice for 66+ Campaign”. The group also demanded the resignation of the Minister of Health, dissolution of the Board of the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) and resignation of the agency director general among others.

Officials said the campaign is an effort by sovereign citizens to play their rightful role in seeking justice and accountability for the death of the 69 children.

“This country lacks leadership. We are having a serious leadership crisis. Corruption is too much in the country. What is the essence of spending 35 million dalasis on the recent trip to the UN with more than 40 delegations?” the Mr. Kejera quizzed

Ndegen Jobe, deputy speaker of National Youth Parliament, said: “As a campaign, we are making efforts to reach out to the families of these children in order to help them better organise themselves to lead the demand for justice for their children. We consider the families of the deceased to be leaders and not backbenchers in the demand for justice. In this regard, we are also reaching out to The Gambia Bar Association (GBA) and individual lawyers to come to the defence of these families in seeking justice for their children,”

“In this regard, we demand the Minister of Health to resign with immediate effect in order to restore public confidence in the health system and to protect the integrity of the investigations that are to be carried out. The continued presence of Dr. Samateh at the helm of health affairs has discredited his ministry in the eyes of Gambians. He has failed to live up to expectations of Gambians who continue to face serious challenges in securing healthcare. His leadership has not served in any way to maintain trust and confidence in the health system. He can’t add any more value to that Ministry and so the sooner he leaves the better for the ministry and the overall delivery of healthcare in this country.”

“Together with Dr. Samateh, we also call for the resignation of the Executive Director and the dissolution of the Board of Directors of the Medicines Control Agency for the failure of the agency to enforce its own ‘Guideline for import and export of medicines and related products’ in line with the Medicines and related products Act, 2014. If the processes and actions outlined in these instruments were adequately and diligently enforced, we would not have witnessed the loss of 69 young lives today.”

“In the same vein, we call for the dissolution of the Pharmacy Council of The Gambia for its failure to ensure that pharmacies provide safe and healthy products which has led to the loss of these young lives.”

“We find the management of pharmacy licences to be unethical. The MCA and the Pharmacy Council are oversight and monitoring bodies over medicine importers and exporters and pharmacies. Information we have obtained is that some key members of the agency and the council are renting out their licences to pharmacies. This is a clear conflict of interest, which directly undermines effective oversight and accountability. The members of the agency and the council should be individuals who should not have any direct financial benefits earned by virtue of holding both licenses and positions in these institutions at the same time.”

Madi Jobarteh said: “The 66 plus children died as result of system failure. We have to realise that such is going to happen in the future so long we have the system in place. The Judiciary and the Executive are all failing us. We need investigation to see which agency failed us so that they will be prosecuted. We need justice and accountability. We have a legislature and still injustice continues to happen in the country. This is as a result of poor leadership and corruption.”

“We need to hold our leaders accountable. As a musician, I am going to use my music to call for justice and accountability,” says Awa Bling, a musician.