Food poisoning outbreak in Iraq leaves two dead and hundreds ill

UN agency says police are investigating after woman and child died and around 750 fell ill after meal to break Ramadan fast

People who fell ill in a mass outbreak of food poisoning return on a bus after being treated in regional hospitals.

Contaminated food has killed at least two people and made around 750 others sick at a camp for Iraqi civilians who have fled fighting against Islamic State in Mosul, UN agencies have said.

A fleet of ambulances and buses raced overnight to the Hasansham U2 camp, home to more than 6,000 people. They took more than 200 of the most severely ill to hospitals in the regional capital, Erbil, and other big cities.

About 600 others were treated at the camp, which houses people who left their homes to escape the battle against Isis for control of the city of Mosul, the extremists’ last major Iraqi stronghold.

A woman and a child died overnight, Iraqi doctors told the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Television images showed listless children and adults hooked up to IV drips for severe dehydration, some apparently doubled over in pain from stomach cramps.

They all fell ill after eating an evening meal from a local restaurant, supplied to break the daytime fast observed by Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan. It was paid for by a Qatari charity and included chicken, beans, rice, yoghurt and soup, local officials said.

Iraqi police are investigating the incident, according to the UN’s refugee agency, which runs the camp. They are understood to be looking at whether the food was contaminated before arriving at the camp, or after delivery.

“We are waiting for the police investigations to understand clearly the chain of events and to draw lessons from this tragic incident … to prevent such situations in the future,” the agency said in a statement. Extra clean water and medical help had been brought in, it added.

The camp, 20 miles outside Mosul, was opened in May to house the latest wave of people made homeless by the fighting.

More than 700,000 civilians are thought to have fled the months-long battle to reclaim Iraq’s second city from militant control, although some are slowly returning to areas in the east of the city.

The UN has said up to 200,000 more could leave as Isis fighters are pinned into shrinking territory and the fighting intensifies.

Many of the camps designed to house the refugees are already overcrowded, with conditions made worse by the fierce summer heat. Both funds and personnel are stretched thin, and the United Nations and the Iraqi government are struggling to maintain acceptable living standards.

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