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Infant death blamed on officials

A FAMILY in Svay Rieng province has blamed workers at a provincial health centre for the death of an almost two-month-old baby who died shortly after receiving a standard vaccination earlier this month.

The parents said the baby boy died March 11, one day after he was injected with a vaccination for tuberculosis at the Kra Sang provincial health centre in Romeas Hek district.

“Two health officers came to my house and they asked my wife whether my son had a vaccination yet,” said Chhun Phally, 27. “My wife allowed them to inject my son because he had never received an injection.”

Chhun Phally said his son cried for the next day, prompting his wife, Am Yat, 28, to give the infant paracetamol, a pain reliever. “I called those health officials to see my son, but they refused to come. So they made my son die,” Chhun Phally said.

The baby’s mother said she believes her son should still be alive today. “If I did not allow them to inject my son, he would not die,” Am Yat said.

The family has filed a complaint with district police and the local commune, implicating the two staff members at the health centre in the death and demanding a payment of 3 million riels (around US$717) in compensation.

However, provincial health officials have denied any responsibility in the boy’s death.

Pen Sona, director of the Svay Rieng provincial health department, said the baby died because of the parents’ carelessness and not as the result of ill treatment from health officials.

“It is the mistake of the baby’s parents that caused their son’s death,” Pen Sona said. “They didn’t bring their son to the health centre when the baby got a high temperature after being injected.”

Pen Sona said health officials who vaccinated the baby followed proper procedures.

Hem Choy, the district’s deputy police chief, confirmed he had received the complaint from the baby’s parents.

“I called the health officials to ask about the case of the baby that died, and they told me that they treated him well, as they do to other children in the district,” Hem Choy said, adding that the case required further investigation.

Cutting infant mortality rates is one of the UN Millennium Development Goals Cambodia has committed to. Though Cambodia has shown positive signs, with the infant mortality rate for children under 5 falling from 124 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 82 in 2005, questions remain as to the viability of reaching the 2015 goal of 65.

Much of the decline has been attributed to a lower fertility rate and not a significant boost in living standards.

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