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Food poisoning at Iraqi refugee camp kills two and sickens hundreds

At least two people have been killed and hundreds are undergoing treatment after a mass food poisoning at a camp for displaced people near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

“There are 752 cases of food poisoning and two death, a woman and a child” following a meal on Monday night, Iraqi health ministry spokesman Seif al-Badr said.

About 100 of those affected required critical hospital treatment after the iftar meal, which breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

The food, provided by a non-governmental organisation, consisted of rice, a bean sauce, meat, yoghurt and water, according to Raad al-Dahlaki, who chairs the Iraqi parliament’s immigration and displacement committee and who visited the camp overnight.

The outbreak occurred at Hasansham U2 camp, located about 20km (13 miles) east of Mosul. It houses more than 6,000 people who fled their homes after a US-backed Iraqi offensive was launched to dislodge Islamic State from the city last October, according to the UN.

The UN’s refugee agency said at least one child had died as a result of the food poisoning and that 200 people needed hospital treatment. “Extra clean water is now being provided at the camp and additional health agencies have been brought in to help in the response,” the agency said.

“We are waiting for the police investigations to understand clearly the chain of events and to draw lessons from this tragic incident which will allow agencies to reinforce public health protocols to prevent such situations in the future,” it said.

More than 800,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since a huge operation against Isis in one of their last strongholds in Iraq was launched in October 2016.

Many of them live in overcrowded camps, where soaring summer temperatures are compounding the difficulties faced by the government and the UN in maintaining acceptable living conditions.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell to Isis in the summer of 2014 as the militants swept over much of the country’s northern and western areas. Weeks later, the head of the extremist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the formation of a self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria from the pulpit of a Mosul mosque.

Months after the start of the Iraqi offensive, Isis militants now only control a handful of neighbourhoods in and around the old city west of the river Tigris that divides Mosul.

AFP contributed to this report