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

Sunday March 17 2019
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An Ambulance ferrying the victims to Lotome health Centre III in Napak District on March 16, 2019. Photos 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.


30 hospitalized after eating poisoned WFP porridge

Thursday March 14 2019


Amudat. A total of 30 people from different families in Alakas village, Amudat Sub County in Amudat District in Karamoja sub-region are fighting for their lives at Amudat Hospital after eating porridge suspected to have been poisoned.

The victims were ferried on Wednesday to Amudat hospital where they are getting treatment.

According to the LC3 Chairperson of Amudat Mr. Andrew Ruto Losia, the victims started complaining after preparing and eating porridge supplied to them by UN agency - World Food program.

He said WFP on Tuesday distributed porridge flour to 120 households and that so far everyone who prepared the porridge flour and consumed it including children complained of stomach upset whereas others fainted.

“We can’t tell whether the porridge flour that World Food distributed to the families had chemicals in it until we get the result from the government laboratory but as for now we are all confused,” he said.

Mr. Losia said the whole sub-county has been thrown into panic adding that other households that had not prepared porridge flour have poured it.

Amudat district police commander Mr. Samson Muyamba confirmed people have been admitted adding that they are investigating the matter.

He said samples from the victims have been sent to the government laboratory.

Mr. Peter Kusolo the district health director Amudat who is also a surgeon at Amudat hospital explains that no death has been registered adding that all the victims are responding to treatment.

Mr. Ryan Anderson, the World Food Program Deputy Country Director in his email statement confirmed the incident saying the UN WFP team has been deployed to investigate the incident.

“WFP is aware of the issue reported and its team has been deployed immediately working with the district leaders and health teams in Amudat to investigate the matter.

He added that “We cannot tell at the moment what the problem is exactly and if it is related to WFP’s food. It is our utmost priority to ensure we provide safe and nutritious food to all the people.”

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.

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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.

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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.