During the plenary sitting on Tuesday 26th March 2019, Hon. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, Minister of State for Primary Healthcare presented a statement on the suspected food poison outbreak in Napak and Amudat. Joyce informed the House that the Ministry of Health had on Tuesday 12th March through its surveillance team on the ground in Karamoja received an alert about suspected food poisoning in that area. Immediately, the Ministry embarked on carrying out investigations on the matter.
On Wednesday 13th March, 18 people were admitted to Alakas Health Center in Amudat and it was discovered they had all consumed World Food Program (WFP) Super Cereal (CSB+). Super Cereal is blended with fortified micronutrients which are often used in nutrition programs to treat and prevent malnutrition.
Moriku communicated that a total of 25 people have been affected between 13th – 23rd March with an onset of central nervous system symptoms (headache, confusion and altered mental state), general body weakness, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, vomiting and fever in Napak and Amudat districts. Currently, a total of 265 cases have been reported with 188 in Nakpak and 77 in Amudat registering four (4) deaths, three (3) from Napak and one from Amudat.
On March 13th, Government and WFP collected Samples of Super Cereal Stocks and water from the affected areas. Samples including blood, vomitus, and urine from patients were also collected for analysis at the Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory and the Central Public Health Laboratory. Food samples have further been sent to a laboratory in Mombasa, Intertek Kenya LTD and another in Johannesburg Intertek Testing Services, South Africa LTD for further analysis.
Joyce mentioned that on Friday 15 March, WFP working with the Government ordered the immediate suspension of Super Cereal distribution in Karamoja and the refugee-hosting districts where it’s distributed. There is also an ongoing campaign advising people not to consume Super Cereal until further notice and also advised communities to observe proper hygiene and sanitation such as boiling water and washing hands with soap.
Majority of the Members of Parliament including Hon. Muhammad Nsereko, Hon. Atiku Bernard, and Hon. Komuhangi Margret debated on the statement. Atiku and Nsereko expressed dismay on Uganda’s dependency on food stuffs; arguing that the country is blessed with a good climate and fertile soils that can enable her grow her own food. Komuhangi raised concern the laxity of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) in executing their duties. She cited the issue of unknown chemicals in flask vacuums that has never been resolved by the bureau. Komuhangi suggested that Uganda should hold WFP responsible for all the damages caused in the affected areas.