WFP suspends food distribution in Karamoja as investigations into poisonous food continue

Sunday March 17 2019

An Ambulance ferrying the victims to Lotome

An Ambulance ferrying the victims to Lotome health Centre III in Napak District on March 16, 2019. Photos by Steven Ariong  

By Steven Ariong


One person has died in Amudat District and several others are said to be in critical condition and currently admitted to different health centres after eating porridge supplied by World Food Programme (WFP).
Mr Peter Apamayuwa, the LCI Chairperson of Chepkwararat village in Karita Sub County, Amudat District identified the deceased as Chemkany Stiango, 50.
She’s reportedly among 30 people who were first admitted to Amudat hospital after eating the porridge they received from the food agency last week.

Stiango is said to have developed complications such as vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach ache shortly after she was discharged from the health facility.
Mr Apamayuwa said Stiango’s five grandchildren are among 50 people admitted to Karita health centre III on Saturday.
“The situation is terrible. By 6pm on Saturday, UN vehicles and hospital Ambulances were busy ferrying people from various villages in Karita Sub County taking them to Karita health centre III,” he said.

Mr Joshua Lokapel, the LCV councillor for Karita Sub County also confirmed the death of one person adding that they are likely to lose more people if government does not respond with better medical attention in time.

A health worker attending to one of children
A health worker attending to one of children admitted to Lotome health centre III after eating suspected poisoned porridge supplied by World Food programme


Samples sent to GAL

Mr Masokoyi Wasswa, the Amudat chief administrative officer said Stiango’s body was taken to Mbale regional hospital for autopsy.
“We are yet to establish the exact cause of her death. I am sure the postmortem report will help us since we have not yet received the samples that were sent to the Government Analytical Laboratory in Kampala,” said Mr Robert Adyama, the Amudat resident district commissioner.
Trouble started last Tuesday when the food agency fighting hunger in Karamoja distributed porridge flour to about 120 households in Alakas village in Amudat District and some parts of Napak District.

However, 30 people who prepared and ate the porridge developed serious complications and they were rushed to Amudat hospital where they were treated and discharged on Thursday.
Among those discharged, three of them were readmitted. About 50 people with similar complications from Napak District were admitted to Lotome health centre III in Lotome Sub-county before the number shot up to 107 victims currently admitted to different health facilities.

Government to blame

Mr Joseph Lomonyang, the Napak District chairperson, said WFP has been supplying food to Karamoja sub region over the last 50 years without anyone suffering complications.
“When you look at this food, it’s a donation from Belgium, Burundi and Turkey through WFP. We don’t know which country among these has sent us this trouble,” he said.

Napak LCV chairperson, Mr Joseph Lomonyang
Napak LCV chairperson, Mr Joseph Lomonyang inspects boxes of the remaining porridge flour which WFP had distributed to breastfeeding mothers at Lotome health centre III where they were stored on march 16, 2019

Mr Francis Kiyonga, Amudat District chairperson, blamed government for failing to inspect foodstuffs supplied by development partners.

He said the incidents in Amudat and Napak districts should be an eye opener to government to start inspecting all the foodstuffs that NGOs donate to Ugandans.

WFP suspends food distribution

To address the situation the food agency has suspended food distribution.
Mr Peter Smerdon, the WFP communication Officer based in Nairobi, told this reporter on Saturday that the UN food agency was working with the Ugandan authorities to establish the cause of suspected food poisoning.

“We have decided to suspend distribution of porridge flour in Karamoja until further notice and WFP team of expert are working with Ugandan expert team to get to the root cause of the problem,” he said.