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Apathetic Children "In The Risk Zone"

Published fredag 5 februari 2010 kl 16.25
A mother and her apathetic child.

The number of so-called “apathetic children” is not increasing, but those at risk for entering into the catatonic-like state are on the rise, a new report describes. According to the National Board of Health and Welfare’s latest investigation into the matter, municipalities and regional governments must improve their handling of such cases in order to keep more children from becoming sick.

The syndrome—known as “pervasive refusal syndrome” in medical circles—has almost exclusively struck the children of underground refugees. Newspapers and television programs have presented the Swedish public with desperate images of children ages 2 to 17 lying in bed in coma-like conditions, refusing to eat and talk.

Most of the sick children come from Central Asia and the Balkans, including Kosovo, Serbia, and Bosnia. They have caused a heated debate in this country, with some people arguing that the children are faking the syndrome in order to keep their families in Sweden. The new report from the Board of Health and Welfare takes an opposite stance, however, holding that the sickness can be prevented by creating a better health apparatus for asylum seekers.

According to the Migration Board, 34 apathetic children were registered in its system in summer 2008; by the end of 2009, that number had dropped to 26. Of those, nine children were so sick that they had to be tube-fed.

The National Board of Health and Welfare hopes to reduce those numbers in the future, largely through more thorough visits with doctors and other health workers. By identifying the warning signs for apathy early on—tiredness, lack of initiative, and depression—the Board hopes to “normalize” these refugee children by encouraging them to attend school and participate in recreational activities.

At this time, however, the children of refugees who have gone underground to hide from deportation are not allowed to attend Swedish schools. The National Board of Health and Welfare disagrees with the law, and writes in a press release that all children should be able to attend school, as the UN Convention on the Rights of Children dictates.

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