Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 10, 2013
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Children caught in the crossfire
Almost $6m spent in three months to save the life of six-year-old shot in Spanish Town

Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor

Little Danny Brownhas spent the last three months in hospital undergoing five major surgeries, the names of which he cannot pronounce, as doctors struggle to save his life.

Six-year-old Danny was in his house in Spanish Town, St Catherine, last month when gunmen kicked in the door and opened fire, hitting him in the abdomen.

He was taken to the Spanish Town Hospital before being transferred to the University Hospital of the West Indies where he underwent four of the five laparotomy surgeries (a procedure involving a large cut through the abdominal wall to gain access into the abdominal cavity).

Danny spent 58 days in the Intensive Care Unit and now has no kidneys.

He must now endure ongoing dialysis treatment.

Jamaica has already spent almost $6 million to provide medical care for this child.

The ongoing cost of Danny's health care for the next 10 years is at least $15,000 each week or $13.5 million in total.

One of the medical practitioners who has watched Danny's battle to survive, Dr Jason Topping, is impressed by his fighting sprit even as he deplores the violence against our children.

"There were a couple of times when I thought this little boy was not going to make it but he pulled through," said Toppin with admiration in his voice.

But the sadness returns as Toppin considers Danny's future and that of all the other child victims.

"Maybe we need to step back and say how can we stop this. There are people and programmes that can stop the attacks on our children and we need to take a look."

treatment cost

Toppin is the one who calculated the cost of treating Danny and he knows that the $6 million figure is a conservative estimate.

"I think of the impact on his life, not being in school and his family that has to be here (at the hospital), these are costs that we have not considered," noted Toppin.

Multiply that more than $6 million by the scores of children who are the victims of violence over the past 12 months and one would see the cost the society is paying for its failure to protect our young ones.

If that is added to the 221 who have been killed in Jamaica over the past four years, the financial toll on the economy is staggering, not to mention the loss of the potential of these children who are cut down before they get into their productive years.

For Dr Elizabeth Ward, head of the Violence Prevention Alliance, the time has long gone for Jamaicans to take a stand, as children should no longer be collateral damage in gang violence and being caught in the crossfire.

"I still think we have a lot of heart in most people in Jamaica. They really don't want to hurt the children, but we are not protecting them enough. We really need to prevent the violence against our children. It really means that communities have to keep our children safe and everybody in the community has to be a part of it," Ward told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Children are the most vulnerable in our society or communities when we have violence occurring," added Ward.

collective effort needed

She argued that parents, relatives and the entire community have to be part of the plan to keep our children safe.

According to Ward, the non-governmental organisations (NGO) established to reduce crime need additional support as they play a key role in keeping our children safe.

"We can use our NGOs that are based in these communities more effectively as they can strengthen the action of community-based efforts to reduce crime."

Ward charged that the country's priorities are wrong as crime is being tackled at the back-end rather than with more preventative measures.

"We do not realise that we have to put programme over machinery. Something like just buying one police car when that money could keep a programme like Children First (Spanish Town, St Catherine-based NGO) open for a year," Ward said.

She noted that Children First reaches more than 350 at-risk youths each year, keeping them out of trouble and safe.

Last month, director of Children First Claudette Richards-Pious announced that failing to cover its operational expenses during the last school term, the organisation could be forced to shut down its operation, leaving several children out in the cold.

Pious said during last Christmas, the NGO had called for Jamaicans to donate whatever cash they could to help it keep its doors open, but got little response, leaving it with an uncertain future.

Name changed to protect the innocent.


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