Rare birth defects worry South African health officials
Defects include brains and hearts exposed with only thin layers of skin over them and no eyes or noses.
Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Photo: Anna Zieminski/AFP
JOHANNESBURG — Health officials in South Africa's Eastern Cape region voiced concern this week at the increased number of children born with rare deformities.
"There have been 50 cases of rare deformities in the past two years and five conjoined twins in less than 18 months," provincial health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo told AFP on June 25.
The latest birth defect registered last week was that of a baby girl born to a 16-year-old, with what looked liked a small penis on the forehead.
"She was born with no nose, and where there are supposed to be eyes there was nothing, just skin covered over the area," Kupelo said.
In April one baby was born with the brain exposed, only covered by a thin layer of skin.
Last year another baby was born with a heart exposed while a pair of conjoined twins shared a heart and liver.
According to Kupelo, all the children die within weeks.
"There is a local pediatrician who has shown interest in studying the possible causes," he said.
Most of the cases are treated at Nelson Mandela Academic hospital in Mthatha. Some are transferred to other hospitals outside the region with advanced facilities.
What has puzzled health officials was the fact that the majority of the cases come from the Transkei region, one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped areas in the country, said Kupelo.
"Health authorities are doing all they can to save them, but they just don't survive," he said.
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition