The current biting hunger in Karamoja sub region has forced residents of Napak and Amudat districts in eastern Uganda to reject calls to return the remaining United Nations World Food Programme supplies as investigations into suspected food poisoning continue.
A total of 2,572 residents in the two districts received porridge flour from UN WFP that turned out to be poisonous and claimed the lives of at least four people who prepared and consumed the supplies.
Several victims have, however, rejected calls by local authorities and UN WFP to return the flour on conditions that government distributes safe porridge flour in exchange for the suspected poisonous supplies.
The authorities of the two districts and UN WFP officials are currently rallying all residents who received the flour to return it to the health facilities where they picked the supplies from but none of them has complied.
WFP which has been the leading food agency fighting hunger in Karamoja sub region for several years is currently collecting all the distributed branded Super Cereal Porridge Plus flour from the people who received the supplies.
The food agency suspended distribution of supplies in the affected areas and said they were investigating the deaths.
Mr Mohamed Satti, the head of UN WFP programme in Karamoja area said 2,572 women in Napak and Amudat districts who received the porridge flour have refused to return it.
Mr Satti said it was agreed between Uganda government and UN WFP to recall the flour from the various health centers where they had been stored before distribution and the residents who had already received the supplies.
He said UN WFP has so far retrieved an estimate of about 55 tons of flour from various health centers in Karamoja.
“We have so far retrieved about 55 tons of the suspected poisoned porridge flour in all health stores in Karamoja except in Kaabong District. The district officials there said they are waiting for the test results [sent to South Africa and Kenya] before they can release the food,” he said.
Mr Masokonyi Wassa, the chief Administrative Officer Amudat confirmed that only few people returned the food adding that they are still convincing the locals to return all the supplies.
Ms Grace Nakut, one of the residents of Lopei village in Lopei Sub County in Napak District said she will return the supplies only after government has given her other food supplies because she does not have any other food to feed her children.
However, Ms Betty Tebanyang, a resident of Lodoi village in Ngoleriet Sub County who also rejected calls to return the flour said the affected people could have failed to follow the right procedures of preparing the porridge.
Mr John Lokong, a resident of Lotome in Napak District also said some people could have eaten the porridge before it was ready.
Ms Joyce chemutai, a village health team leader from Alakas village said some people have crossed with the suspected poisoned flour to Kenya.