A baby was born with only one eye and no nose yesterday in the Mandailing Natal Regency of North Sumatra, Indonesia, and doctors say the odds of her long-term survival are very slim.
The Mandailing Natal Regency Health Agency today confirmed that the baby was born with debilitating defects that were resulting in severe respiratory complications.
Sadly, doctors aren’t confident that the baby will survive beyond the week.
“In similar cases, [the rate of survival is] one to three days. But the doctor earlier said that we should be grateful [if she lives for] five hours. Her general condition is that she has respiratory and heart complications. Her heartbeat is below 100,” he said.
Doctors are monitoring the baby’s condition for the next few days with the aim of transferring her to a hospital 515 kilometers away in the North Sumatra capital city of Medan.
The health agency suspects that the baby’s birth defect was the result of mercury poisoning, since they suspect her father uses the toxic material in his work as an artisinal gold miner.
Mercury, a well-documented cause of birth defects and nervous system disorders, is used around the world at gold mining processing sites to separate gold from ore. According to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, Indonesia has one of the highest numbers of artisanal mines (independent small gold mines, often illegal and generally unsafe) in the world, exposing workers and communities to harmful chemicals.
A National Geographic report on artisanal mining in Indonesia documents the extent to which mercury use in these operations can be detrimental to humans and cause birth defects such as babies born without limbs. Nationwide, it is estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 people are suffering from mercury poisoning and another 10,000 to 20,000 children have birth defects from exposure in the womb.
Update: Reports have emerged that the baby sadly passed away at 10:55pm yesterday. She lived for just seven hours.