The Jakarta Post
Nineteen babies have received intensive treatment in Sumatra hospitals after suffering from acute respiratory infections (ISPA).
One 28-day-old baby passed away on Wednesday at Muhammadiyah hospital in Palembang after suffering from an ISPA.
The province's health agency head Lesty Nuraini said on Thursday that the baby suffered a lung infection that was most likely caused by inhaling the haze.
However, Lesty said her agency would conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the death of the child of Hendra Saputra and Mursida, a couple from Baten Seberang Ulu, Palembang.
Meanwhile in Kuantan Singigi regency, Riau province, 18 infants were also being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the regency's general hospital suffering from haze-related illnesses.
Regency health agency official Detri Elvira said the babies were among dozens of children who were being treated at the hospital for respiratory diseases.
'The hospital is currently treating dozens of children and babies affected by land and forest fires,' Detri said as quoted by Antara news agency.
She said the babies should be given the highest standard of care as the haze was more dangerous to babies than adults. She revealed that some of the babies had to be treated in the ICU room as respiratory aid was required.
Besides the infants, Detri said that thousands of other residents had also been recorded as suffering haze-related illnesses and asked for help for the hospital and community health centers in the regency.
The province's health agency head Andra Sjafril admitted that he had not yet been informed about the increasing number of babies being treated at Kuantan Singingi hospital.
'I have just heard about it [from you],' Andra told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
He said that, so far, his agency had received only general reports from regencies about the number of patients suffering haze-related illnesses, without details about the ages of those people.
However, he guaranteed that the babies and children would receive the highest level of treatment from local medical teams. 'They must be treated according to the doctor's prognosis.'
'There are also assistance teams helping medical personnel in the regencies. It's not just the teams from the province, the central government has also deployed a rapid assessment team to help victims of haze in Riau,' he added.
He noted that some people, particularly babies, children, pregnant women and asthma sufferers were more susceptible to haze-related health problems.
'The vulnerable groups are strongly advised not to conduct outdoor activities. Even at home, they should wear masks, as haze can still enter their houses,' Andra said.
He said the province could do nothing to disperse the haze as it originated from other provinces.
'We just get the effects. As a preventative measure to deal with the increasing [number of] ISPA cases, we have distributed 6,000 free masks. That amount excludes the thousands of masks donated by companies and organizations in public places.'
Hundreds of thousands of residents in Sumatra and Kalimantan have suffered haze-related illnesses.
According to data from the Health Ministry, as of Thursday, 45,666 people in Riau Islands suffered from illnesses, with four fatalities, 69,734 Jambi residents were sick with one fatality and 83,276 South Sumatra residents suffered from illnesses and two people had died.
Although no deaths were recorded, the ministry noted 43,477 haze patents in West Kalimantan, 29,104 in South Kalimantan and 36,101 in Central Kalimantan.
Besides causing people to fall ill, the haze also affected participants of the Tour de Singkarak international cycling race in West Sumatra.
Two cyclists from Japan were seen wearing masks when starting stage four from the iconic Jam Gadang (Big Clock) in Bukittinggi to race 116 kilometers through haze to Istano Basa Pagaruyung in Batusangkar on Thursday.
Besides the two cities, other cities and regencies in the province have also been blanketed by haze. In Tanah Datar regency, visibility reached 400 meters and air quality was at an unhealthy level, according to Kototabang Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.
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