Camp residents hit by food poisoning cool off in Khazir river
KHAZIR, Kurdistan Region – People displaced from war-torn Mosul are cooling off in the Khazir river, close to the Khazir and Hassansham camps, with many jumping into the river to swim as the temperature has already surpassed 40 Celsius.
The camps made headlines earlier this week when 825 people suffered food poisoning after a charity served food at an event for Iftar, the end of the day when Muslims break their fast during Ramadan.
With the rising temperatures and dry weather, the camp officials say they are competing against time to provide electricity, coolers and water to tens of thousands who have sought shelter in the desert area between Erbil and Mosul.
The river is one solution, but a camp organizer told Rudaw on Thursday that they need water treatment plants to make use of it.
Rzgar Obed from the Kurdish Barzani Charity Foundation said that there are three such plants, but more are needed to increase the current 40-liters of water per person, something Obed said is not enough.
Deep-drilled water wells are another option. There are two of them, Obed said.
“But then again we will face another problem, geographically, Hassan Sham and Khazir is an area where drilled wells do not succeed. That is why we have to depend on the water from the river which needs treatment,” he continued.
With regard to electricity, Obed said that they are expecting the work to finish to provide electricity for Hassan Sham U2 camp in the next two days, with the work at their other four camps in the area to be finished before Eid, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
As soon as the electricity is provided, he said that Iraqi Ministry for the Displaced has the obligation to provide the camp residents with air coolers.
According to the International Migration Organization (IOM), the use of water coolers is problematic, even with limited electricity. They require between 100 and 160 liters of water to operate daily.
Commenting on the situation of the residents of the Hassan Sham U2, where hundreds of people were suffering food poisoning on Tuesday, Obed revealed that only 20 people remained in the hospitals whom are also expected to return to their tents when their conditions are “stable.”
Despite its initial reporting of fatalities, the health department in Erbil later clarified that nobody died from the food poisoning.
Seven people have been arrested since — six of them from Dunya restaurant, where the food was cooked — and the seventh person from the British charity organization Help the Needy.
RAF, a Qatari charity organization financed the food delivery through the British organization.
It is yet unclear as to what and how things went wrong to the hundreds of people. The local authorities are saying they are investigating the issue.
The food was beans, rice, chicken, and a yogurt drink brought from a restaurant in Erbil. Most of those affected were children and elderly, complaining of vomiting and stomachache.
Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi said that the food was takeaway from the restaurant, though the regulations are that any food should be cooked inside the camp where there are big kitchens.
Obed confirmed to Rudaw this morning that takeaway food will nolonger be an option for people and charity organizations who want to help the people in need.
The restaurant and the British organization have since exchanged blames against each other.
Forty ambulances were dispatched to the camp to transfer those affected to nearby hospitals in Khabat and in Erbil hospital.
Iraq’s minister of the displaced told reporters on Wednesday as he visited the affected camp that without the high coordination and commitment of the health officials in Erbil, people may have died as the result.
Mohammed also denied the reports that anyone died that evening.
The Iraqi Health Ministry first reported two deaths on Tuesday, but it was later emerge that the fatalities were not because of the food poisoning but dies of other causes, AP reported.
The Hassansham U2 camp was opened by the UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, in May. It is some 30 km east of Mosul and has the capacity to accommodate 9,000 people.
The UNHCR opened the came to receive displaced people from the western Mosul, where the Iraqi forces have been fighting against ISIS militants since February.
More than half a million people have fled the fighting in Western Mosul, according to the Iraqi and UN figures.
Photos by AFP/Mohamed El-Shahed