MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A 9-year-old girl died on Christmas Day after being hit by a stray bullet near Ipo Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan province, the Department of Health announced on Tuesday, December 29.
Health Secretary Janette Garin confirmed that the girl was the first recorded victim of a stray bullet this holiday season.
“We strongly condemn the loss of life of an innocent child. This should have not happened if only gun owners are responsible. There are many ways to celebrate the holidays and firing guns indiscriminately is definitely not an option," she said in a statement.
The girl was hit on the back while she was playing outside her home on Christmas Eve, with the bullet tearing her kidney and spleen.
She was rushed to the East Avenue Medical Center for treatment, but died on December 25.
Police are now examining the bullet in an effort to trace its owner.
Malacañang said on Tuesday that police and local officials were directed to step up efforts to stop indiscriminate firing of firearms, especially as New Year's Eve nears.
"Police and local governments have been directed to intensify efforts to prevent indiscriminate firing of firearms," Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a text reply to Rappler, when asked about the death.
Meanwhile, government officials appealed to the public to avoid indiscriminate firing during the holidays.
As of Tuesday morning, or two days before New Year's Eve, the DOH has recorded 131 firecracker-related incidents nationwide, most of which involved Metro Manila residents.
The DOH said that piccolo, considered a dangerous and prohibited firecracker in the country, remains as the primary cause of injury (76%) especially among children. Other firecrackers that caused injuries were 5 star (4%), kwitis (2%), Sparkler (2%), and other unknown firecrackers (6%).
Most fireworks-related injuries are in the National Capital Region (NCR) with 57 cases (43%), followed by Region 5 with 26 cases (19%), and Region 11 with 14 cases (10%). In NCR, 18 out of the 57 cases (32%) were in Manila, 15 cases (26%) in Quezon City and 8 (14%) cases in Mandaluyong.
While the DOH said that the number of incidents is at least 20% lower this year compared to the same period last year, DOH spokesman Dr Lyndon Lee Suy said it was still "too early to tell" if the DOH's anti-firecracker campaign was effective. – Rappler.com