More than 300 children — most of them under five years of age — died in 2022 after drinking contaminated cough medicine, reports the World Health Organization (WHO)

The deaths occurred in Gambia, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan.

Family of children who died of contaminated cough medicine during a protest in Haiti. Archive image.
Family of children who died of contaminated cough medicine during a protest in Haiti. Archive image.

Children died of acute kidney damage, reports The Guardian Cough medicine, which was sold over the counter, contained high levels of glycols of the types diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

"These substances are toxic chemicals used in industrial solvents and freezing fluids, which can be lethal even in small amounts and should never be present in medicines," says WHO in a statement.

According to the organization, children in the Philippines, East Timor, Senegal and Cambodia may also have fallen victim to medicine, and the WHO calls on its over 190 member states to take immediate action in the medical logistics chains to prevent more deaths.

The medicines in question are reported to be manufactured by two Indian and four Indonesian pharmaceutical companies.