MPs angry over distribution of poisonous food in Karamoja

Moriku

Members of Parliament yesterday castigated the Government over the suspected poisonous food distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP), which left four people dead and hundreds hospitalized.

In a statement presented to Parliament, the state minister for primary healthcare, Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, said a total of 265 people in Napak and Amudat were hospitalised between March 13 and 23, with symptoms of vomiting, abdominal pain, high fever and confusion after eating Super Cereal, which was distributed by WFP.

The minister said experts from WFP, the health ministry, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and World Health Organisation are investigating urine and blood samples from the victims, as well as the Super cereal using laboratories in Mombasa and South Africa to ascertain what the problem is. Of the four people who died, the minister explained that two died from health facilities, while the other two died within the communities.

The WFP boss, El Khidir Daloum, told the press last week that the problematic Super Cereal food that made people sick was imported from Turkey. According to Kaducu, WFP suspended the distribution of Super Cereal on March 15 and retrieved what it had already distributed. The minister also informed Parliament that the Government had already embarked on a sensitisation campaign to tell the people in the affected areas not to consume Super Cereal and to improve their hygiene.

However, dissatisfied with her submission, legislators, including those from Karamoja, rebuked the Government for not having a mechanism to detect poisonous and contaminated food in the country.

The MPs also wondered why WFP imports food yet Uganda has a lot of cereal food, which can be bought cheaply and distributed to the hunger-stricken people of Karamoja. Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi wondered why the country has to wait for results from samples taken to Mombasa and South Africa two weeks after the incident, yet the Government could release results from the government laboratories within the country.

Ajuri County MP Denis Obua informed Parliament that he had done a Google search and discovered that WFP had also withdrawn the same Super Cereal food from three other countries of Somalia, Bangladesh and Yemen, where it had been distributed.

The budget committee chairperson, Amos Lugoloobi, stated that UNBS is greatly underfunded and, therefore, lacks the required capacity to effectively execute its mandate of testing products.

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Patrick Luwagga is the editorial director of cross-platform content for UGANDANZ. He works across the newsroom and with business partners to drive and develop ambitious editorial projects that include digital journalism, video, data research, polling, live events, and thought-leadership series that are supported by outside underwriting. As executive director, he is responsible for the creation of Political news section, prior to joining UGANDANZ, Patrick was the chief editor for the national weekly news magazine of Kasese Times. In that role, he covered several presidential elections, wrote and produced two television documentaries, and was a regular commentator on television and radio news programs. Patrick was born in Masaka and grew up in Kasese. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Makerere University where he was a Knight Foundation journalism fellow.