By Fred Kiva
Food samples have been sent to a laboratory in Mombasa, Intertek Kenya LTD and another in Johannesburg Intertek Testing Services, S.A. LTD, for further analysis, following deaths and illness feared to be linked to the food distributed by WFP in the Karamoja Sub-region.
Government and the World Food Programme are jointly investigating the possible linkage between the food and the illness and deaths in Amudat and Napak districts. Three people have so far died, while 262 others have been taken ill since 12 March, with symptoms of mental confusion, vomiting, headache, high fever and abdominal pain.
Some samples of Super Cereal stocks and water taken from the affected areas including blood, vomitus and urine from patients are currently being analyzed at the Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory and the Central Public Health Laboratory.
“Preliminary results of the Government investigation are expected in the next 24 hours. While results from abroad are expected within the next 5 to 7 days,” WFP said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Investigating teams from the Ministry of Health and WFP food technologists remain on the ground carrying out surveillance and epidemiological mapping to establish the associated factors and possible causes of this recent illness,” the UN Agency added.
On Friday 15 March, WFP, working with the Government, ordered the immediate suspension of Super Cereal distributions in Karamoja and the refugee hosting districts where it’s distributed, saying “This is as a precautionary measure until investigations are concluded.”
According to the statement, WFP is working with district authorities to retrieve all Super Cereal stocks from health centres and communities. An intensive communications campaign is also ongoing, advising people not to consume Super Cereal until further notice. Communities have been advised to observe proper hygiene and sanitation, through hand washing with soap and drinking boiled water.
“Working through Government health systems, WFP has provided Super Cereal in Uganda for more than 10 years. The current coverage of Super Cereal is at 252 locations in Karamoja in addition to many sites across the 13 refugee hosting districts. Refugees receive Super Cereal in the general food basket,” WFP said.
It added, “Super Cereal is also distributed in many countries and has a robust record of fighting malnutrition and protecting pregnant or nursing women against malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of their child’s life. Super Cereal undergoes all the verifications of quality control before being distributed. No previous complaints have been reported about the product in Uganda.”