Photo: Child Abuse in Puerto Rico
A 4-year-old boy who weighed just 6.3 kilograms (13.8 pounds) died Monday in a hospital in Puerto Rico’s capital.
The child was brought to San Juan’s Pavia Hospital on Sunday by his mother, Luz Gonzalez, police Lt. Luis Martinez said.
He said that the boy was admitted completely undernourished and nothing but skin and bones, adding that mother could not explain why her son was in such a critical state, not being able to speak or walk.
The Department of the Family, which is examining the case, has begun procedures to take custody of the mother’s other three minor children, ages 1, 3 and 7.
Police and prosecutors are analyzing the case to determine if they will file charges against the mother.
The news about the death from malnutrition of the youngster sparked alarm since it coincided with the death last Saturday of a 4-month-old baby in the central town of Barranquitas after the mother told paramedics that her child was having health problems.
The police report in that case says that Damaira Arroyo Acevedo, 24, found her baby unconscious at their home in Barranquitas.
The woman called paramedics, who transported the child to Mennonite Hospital in Barranquitas, where the infant was pronounced dead.
The two recent deaths highlight the difficult situation for children in Puerto Rico, where each month 200 cases of mistreatment are registered and where in 2010 five children died after being beaten or otherwise attacked by their parents.
The director of the non-profit family support center ESCAPE, Yadira Pizarro, warned months ago that violence against children within the family unit had resulted in the deaths of about 20 children under 5 in the last three years.
The expert said that in Puerto Rico about 25 percent of women become mothers before reaching the age of 21.
Pizarro said that the parents who mistreat their children are rather young and, in many cases, lack the minimum training and experience to confront a task of such responsibility.
ESCAPE last March launched the “Children don’t come with an instruction manual” campaign with the aim of sending a message of solidarity to parents and relatives who are participating in the care of children in Puerto Rico.