Mosul refugee camp hit by bout of deadly food poisoning

#InsideIraq

At least two people dead and hundreds taken ill after eating iftar meal at Hasansham U2 camp in al-Khazer, say Iraqi officials

A family of refugees at a camp south of Mosul (AFP)
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Tuesday 13 June 2017 11:28 UTC
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At least two people have died and hundreds more have fallen ill after suffering food poisoning in a camp for displaced Iraqis east of Mosul, officials said on Tuesday.

Iraq's health minister told the Associated Press that a girl and woman died and in a statement, the UNHCR said that around 800 cases of food poisoning had been recorded, 200 of whom were taken to hospital.

People were said to be vomiting and suffering dehydration after an iftar meal, to break the daily Ramadan fast on Monday, Zahed Khatoun, a member of the Iraqi parliament's committee for displaced people, told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

The food was provided by a non-governmental organisation. 

Authorities have launched a formal investigation into the incident, officials said. 

The food, containing beans, chicken, and yogurt, was prepared in a restaurant in Erbil and brought to the camp by a Qatari charity, Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported.

The owner of the restaurant was arrested, added Rudaw.

It quoted camp supervisor Rizgar Obed as saying that outside organisations had previously been banned from bringing in food, but the camp authorities had been forced "under great pressure" to change the regulations.

The Hasansham U2 camp in al-Khazer, between Mosul and Erbil, hosts people displaced by an Iraqi offensive to capture Mosul from the Islamic State (IS).

IS fighters are currently under heavy siege in the west of the city.

According to the UN refugee agency, more than 6,000 people currently live inside the camp. 

The agency said it was "extremely concerned" by the events at the camp.

"Staff have been working closely overnight to coordinate the response with other agencies and the relevant authorities... to ensure that those who have fallen ill were able to receive swift medical treatment and that the seriously sick were provided transport to nearby hospitals," the statement said.

The camp is one of 13 built by the UNHCR in the Mosul area to cope with people fleeing from the city and surrounding villages.

Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led coalition, launched an offensive last October to recapture Mosul from IS.

They started an assault on the west of the city in February.

Aid groups have repeatedly expressed their concerns over the safety of hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been forced to flee and are at risk of being caught in the crossfire.

Almost 10,000 people fled from Mosul's northwest and the Old City every day during the last week of May, the UN said. 

More than 750,000 people have been displaced from the city since October.