India Blames UNICEF for Vitamin A Overdose Deaths

An Indian court ruled in September that the United Nations International Children’s Fund and the United Nations were jointly responsible for the deaths of more than 30 children in November 2001 and ordered the two agencies to pay compensation to the families of the children.

The children died after being administer shots containing vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is a major problem in India.

UNICEF maintains that the medicine it delivered were perfectly safe, but that poorly trained health care workers in the Indian state of Assam gave some children unsafe doses of the medication leading to the deaths.

The judge hearing the case did find that health care workers in Assam were partially responsible, but also cited UNICEF for changing the method of delivering the vitamin A from a traditional two-milliliter spoon dosage to a five milliliter dosage taken by cup.

UNICEF said that it brief the Assam government on the changes and the proper way to administer the vitamin A.

No word on whether or not UNICEF plans to appeal the judgment.

Sources:

India child deaths blamed on UNICEF. Subir Bhaumik, The BBC, September 3, 2003.

India: 14 children dead after UNICEF vitamin programme. Pravda, November 19, 2001.

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