Four siblings who’d been abandoned at their home in Guizhou province were hospitalized and later died after swallowing pesticide.
The children, aged between five and 13, were admitted to a hospital in Bijie on Tuesday but died after emergency treatment failed, Xinhua reports. It’s unclear whether the children drank the pesticide with the intention of killing themselves.
According to the village party chief, the children’s mother had left home after a fight with her husband, and he’d left the village for work in March, leaving the kids to care for themselves.
They were left with a supply of corn and preserved meat in the house, and the father had left the eldest son a bank card with access to 3,500 yuan.
The siblings’ grandparents had all passed away, and authorities were unable to contact the children’s parents.
“The children did not lack food and clothes, but lacked the love and care of parents,” Xiao Wenying, a distant family relative, told reporters. “The parents failed to fulfill their parental responsibilities.”
The case has further shed light on the plight of “left-behind” children in rural China, who more easily fall victim to trafficking and tragedies such as this.
Three years ago, five “street children” from the same Guizhou city died from carbon monoxide poisoning after burning charcoal near a dumpster to keep warm, Xinhua said.
China has more than 60 million left-behind children in rural areas, most of whom live with grandparents when their parents travel to other cities to work. However, some 3.4 percent of these children live alone, according to a 2013 report from the All-China Women’s Federation.