5 Jul 2017

Unborn baby survives gunshot in Brazil

1:54 pm on 5 July 2017

A Brazilian baby that survived being hit by a stray bullet while still in the womb has been called a miracle.

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(file photo) Photo: AFP

Mother Claudineia dos Santos Melo, 28, was days away from her due date and shopping for nappies when she passed near a gunfight in a favela in Rio de Janeiro state.

She was struck by a stray bullet while walking in Duque de Caxias, north-west of Rio de Janeiro city, on Friday.

The bullet entered her hip and hit her unborn baby, causing injuries in several places including his spine.

Baby Arthur was born in an emergency caesarean, but is now paraplegic. Ms Dos Santos was said to be in a stable condition, breathing without aid.

The baby's father, Klebson da Silva, 27, has visited the pair in hospital and told local reporters that he was filled with hope after seeing "victorious" Arthur.

Ms Dos Santos may give her testimony to police from hospital on Tuesday, according to O Globo newspaper.

Police have said they thought she was hit by criminals, and not by officials fighting against them.

The case is under investigation.

There is hope that young Arthur may make some recovery. Gynaecologist José Carlos Oliveira, who was monitoring his progress, called his survival "a miracle happening before our eyes".

"Today, he is paraplegic, but anything can happen in the life of this child," he said, adding that he had never seen a case like it.

The mother's brother, Leonardo dos Santos, echoed the sense of hope.

"I want to see the baby grown strong and walk and run alongside the family," he said. "The relatives here are all praying together."

Stray bullets 'a misfortune suffered by the poor'

Rights groups say civilians can often run the risk of finding themselves in the crossfire during police operations against heavily-armed drug gangs, particularly in impoverished favelas.

Deaths from stray bullets are a big problem in Brazilian cities.

According to a survey in newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, 66 people were hit by stray bullets in the Rio metropolitan region from January to mid-May this year.

Just over a third of those people died, said the paper.

In June, a further 749 episodes of gunfire were registered in Greater Rio by the Cruzo Fogo app, which was developed by Amnesty International to map armed violence in the city.

On Sunday, residents of favelas in Rio's north travelled to central Copacabana beach to protest against gun violence and call for peace in their neighbourhoods.

Antonio Carlos Costa, founder of human rights group Rio de Paz, or Rio of Peace, said the latest case had become a dramatic emblem for the cause.

He said he felt the wider country, and the wider world, was largely indifferent to the problem.

"These deaths do not mobilise the middle class because in the overwhelming majority of cases they take place in favelas," he said.

"It is a pain of the poor, a misfortune suffered by the poor."

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