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Displaced people demand humanitarian organizations not to send them inedible meals after dozens of them were poisoned

Editing: Mohamad Alaa |
TranslationEditor: Glory Jabr |
Translation: Muhammad Ghaith
Publication date: 2020/05/13 09:25

Idlib - SMART

Displaced people in the Idlib governorate, Northern Syria, demanded humanitarian and relief organizations and charities not to send them any inedible food meals, especially after dozens of the people, most of them women and children, were poisoned due to eating food meals in a displaced people’s camp near the village of Deir Hassan.   

On Tuesday, the Civil Defense posted on Facebook that 70 people, including 31 children and 21 women, were poisoned due to eating food that was distributed in the camp before Iftar by one of the humanitarian organizations operating in Northern Syria. The Civil Defense transported the people to nearby medical clinics. 

Sources from the poisoned people reported to SMART that the Turkish Sham Sharif Organization distributed the Ramadan Iftar meals to the people in the camp.

The displaced woman Rajaa Masoud, who was poisoned along with her children in the camp, said that they have been suffering from severe abdominal pain and vomiting since they ate the meal. 

Masoud, who lives with her children in a tent in a mountainous area, called on humanitarian organizations to take care of the meals. She said, "If you do not take care of the meals you send us, do not send them, if you want to send us meals, let them be edible. Do not send them to kill us." Masoud emphasized that most of the meals that organizations distributed in the camp tasted abnormal. 

The displaced man Ghassan Ibrahim wondered, "Why the organizations wanted to kill us by poison, despite all of the bad conditions of the camp." Ibrahim added that Civil Defense transported the poisoned people to the al-Quds hospital and the hospital of the al-Qah village. Ibrahim noted that the total of the poisoned people in the Reayat al-Tofoula (Childcare) camp and nearby camps reached 45 at an early count.

The displaced man Abdulkareem al-Mous said that his entire family was poisoned after they ate rotten food meals. 

Salvation Government’s initial investigation indicates that poisoning may be not due to meals

Ayman Jibs, the Health minister of the Salvation Government, operating in the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-controlled areas stated that they opened an investigation of the poisoning in the camp. Jibs added that initial results indicate that poisoning may not be due to the food meals distributed by the organization. 

Jibs said that the Sham Sharif Organization was responsible for distributing the meals, as it distributed similar meals in other camps in which no cases of poisoning were recorded. 

Jibs reduced the official statistics that the Civil Defense recorded of the affected people, saying that the total of the poisoned people are 48. Jibs noted that all of the cases are mild and left hospital on the same day.  

Jibs noted that they could outline a plan to monitor the process of preparing fast food distributed to the displaced people, as the organizations’ work is not monitored currently at all.

Sham Sharif Organization denies statement attributed to them

Activists circulated a statement attributed to the Sham Sharif Organization on social media. The statement considered that the poisoning incident is meant to do evil to the organization by envious people. The statement accused the displaced people of the camp of complaining about food kind repetition. Murhaf al-Jadou, a media official of the organization denied the validity of the statement.

Al-Jadou said that the organization has formal social media accounts, on which it posts its statements attached with its logo and signature. 

SMART sent inquiries to al-Jadou to answer; however, he considered answering the inquiries as the buisness of the organization's administration. SMART sent the inquiries to Khaled al-Ahmad, the deputy chief of the organization; however, he apologized to answer because the Salvation Government’s Displaced People Affairs prevented the officials of the organization from stating, according to al-Ahmad.

The statement that the organization denied said, "For several days, residents of a camp have been complaining about the repetition of food meals. Some of the residents say: Why the food you provide since the first day of Ramadan is Farika (A kind of green burnt wheat) with meat and nuts, and sometimes is rice with meat along with water, fruits, yoghurt, and dates? Why do not you distribute barbecues and lahmajun (thin piece of dough topped with minced meat and minced vegetables)? We are fed up with this food. We (the organization) told them that this is the kind of the food adopted in the survey and that all residents of other camps eat, thank God, and praise our work, except you."

The statement added, "The displaced people were not satisfied with our behaviour, harboured ill will towards us, and attacked our work team, as a brawl was about to erupt, but the team prefered to leave the camp. A short while after, we heard that this camp among the eight ones recorded cases of food poisoning and a child died. We realized the malice of those people who harboured ill will towards us. We contacted the administration of the camp. The administration said that the dead child is not a resident of the camp and that he died from Meninges three days ago. The administration noted that the dead child was not in the age that allows him to eat Farika and rice."

This is not the first poisoning incident

This food poisoning incident is not the first of its kind. On May 20, 2018, dozens of civilians in the Hafsa camp on the edges of the town of Maasaran, 30 kilometers southeast of Idlib, were poisoned due to eating rotten Iftar meals. 

Then, Nour al-Abdou, a pediatrician in the hospital of al-Ghadfa reported to SMART that between 100 and 120 cases of food poisoning arrived at the hospital due to eating rotten Iftar meals. Al-Abdou noted that most of the cases were children. 

Al-Abdou added that the poisoning symptoms were diarrhea, stomachache, and vomiting. Al-Abdou noted that some of the children had circulatory shocks due to severe diarrhea. Al-Abdou said that there were no critical cases. 

In May 2018, 20 displaced children from northern Homs were poisoned in the village of Um Ruwtha in the city of Jarabulus, 102 kilometers northeast of Aleppo, Northern Syria. 

Muhammad al-Hussein, a displaced man from northern Homs reported to SMART that they transported 14 children to the hospital of Jarabulus; however, they returned to the shelter without treatement due to the lack of a specialized doctor. The children lived in hangars that were used as cattle barns. 

Al-Hussein added that the children were poisoned due to water pollution,  the lack of medicine, malnutrition, and overpopulation as each 35 families live in one hangar.

In May 2018, eight children were poisoned due to eating invalid food in the al-Mabruka camp in al-Hasakah, Northeastern Syria. 

Activists reported to SMART that the Asayish forces seized all canned food that led to the children’s poisoning.

Ahmad Jameel, the manager of the camp said that they treated the affected children; however, Jameel did not specify whether the canned food was behind the poisoning cases. 

Displaced people in Northern Syria suffer from poor humanitarian conditions, including the lack of services. The displaced people appeal to humanitarian organizations and local councils to ease their suffering, and provide needed vaccines and medicine, in addition to heating devices. During winter, the suffering of displaced people increases, as earlier, rainstorms destroyed tents in several camps.