News: Food Poisoning Incident Raises Concerns for IDPs in Iraq

What’s going on?

According to UN sources, approximately 800 refugees have been affected by food poisoning in a refugee camp in Mosul, Iraq. The city of Mosul has been controlled by IS militants since June of 2014. Iraqi forces have been fighting to regain Mosul, launching their first assault in the west part of the city in February, earlier this year. Since then, 800,000 people have been displaced, with 633,000 of them being from west of the city. Many of the displaced now reside within one of the 13 camps set up by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in northern Iraq.

(Photo provided by CNN)

The Issue:

The Hasansham U2 camp, located between Mosul and Irbil, houses 6,235 internally displaced people from the nearby conflict area. The UN has reported that 200 have been hospitalized while an additional 600 victims were treated at the camp after experiencing stomach pains and vomiting since receiving a communal meal on Monday night. During the month of June, Muslims celebrate Ramadan which involves fasting during the day and breaking the fast just after sunset with an evening Iftar meal. This past Monday, 2,000 people received the iftar meal at the Hasansham U2 camp which had been prepared by an Erbil restaurant. Rizgar Obed, the camp supervisor, told the local Kurdistan paper, Rudaw, that two people have died, while an additional 800 to 900 have been affected. The UNHCR and volunteers have rushed to provide medical assistance and ambulances to send the victims to three nearby hospitals, including Khabat hospital. The victims experienced symptoms of dehydration and vomiting, in addition to stomach pains and difficulty breathing. Previously, the camp had banned outside organizations from donating food, but the camp supervisor told reporters that the camp was “under great pressure” and running low on resources, which is why it allowed the Barzani Charity Fund to donate Monday night’s meal. The food is said to have contained chicken, beans and yogurt. According to BBC sources, the restaurant owner has been arrested, although it is remains unclear if his actions were intentional, and the UNHCR remains deeply concerned.

What You Can Do To Help:

Today, we are experiencing an unprecedented number of displaced peoples and refugees who are fleeing armed conflict and abusive regimes. The UNHCR and other organizations around the world have been doing their best to set up shelters and provide the necessary food and water for these victims. However, often times the camps, like the Hasansham U2 camp do not have the sufficient needs because the demand for shelter and refuge is exceeding the available supplies. This case of food poisoning highlights the importance of having access to the right amounts of food and water. Typically, the food is supposed to be prepared at the campsite where there are big kitchens, and where an incident such as this is less likely to occur. The best way to help and get involved, is by donating to the UNHCR directly. Other ways to help include learning more about the current crisis. Despite President Trump’s executive order to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the country, the US has seen a rise in “refugee cities,” especially in the middle of the country where living costs are more affordable. Lancaster, Pennsylvania has made headlines as the US city holding the most refugees per capita. Most importantly, they are providing these displaced peoples with a new place to call home and engage in the community. Other organizations including OxFam, Peace Accelerators, and Transplanting Traditions Community Farm, have created projects that allow refugees to become self-reliant, empowering them with the tools to produce their own food and make their own choices. In honor of World Refugee Day on June 20th, Peace Accelerators is hosting an event called 100,000 Seconds for Peace to support its initiative Farms Not Arms, which is dedicated to teaching agricultural techniques in impoverished areas such as refugee camps, to contribute towards world peace and a sustainable planet. Click on the links to learn more about how you can help and get involved in events near you.

Watch this short video to learn more about the situation and listen to personal accounts.