Middle East

Iraq displaced hit by food poisoning in camp near Mosul

Workers at camp check children's health Image copyright UNHCR/Amira Abd El Khalak
Image caption Staff at the camp are checking the health of younger residents

Hundreds of people have fallen ill from suspected food poisoning at a camp for displaced people near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

People were said to be vomiting and suffering dehydration after an iftar meal, to break the daily Ramadan fast.

The Hasansham U2 camp, between Mosul and Irbil, houses people displaced by nearby conflict.

The city's west is under heavy siege as part of an offensive to recapture it from so-called Islamic State (IS).

About 800 cases of food poisoning in the camp have been recorded, with 200 people taken to hospital, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a statement.

One woman receiving treatment told the agency: "We felt stomach pains as soon as we ate. We felt we couldn't breathe and then saw that our neighbours were all suffering at the same time."

Earlier reports that a child had died have now been retracted by local media.

The child was seriously ill, unconscious and appeared to be without a pulse until a follow-up check was conducted, Rudaw news agency reported.

Image copyright UNHCR/Amira Abd El Khalak
Image caption Victims reported stomach pains and breathing difficulties

The UNHCR said it was "extremely concerned" by the events at the camp.

"Staff have been working closely overnight to co-ordinate the response with other agencies and the relevant authorities... to ensure that those who have fallen ill were able to receive swift medical treatment and that the seriously sick were provided transport to nearby hospitals," the statement said.

The food, containing beans, chicken and yoghurt, was prepared in a restaurant in Irbil and brought to the camp by a Qatari charity, Rudaw added.

It quoted camp supervisor Rizgar Obed as saying that outside organisations had previously been banned from bringing in food, but the camp authorities had been forced "under great pressure" to change the regulations.

People are being treated in three hospitals in the area.

The restaurant owner has been arrested, Rudaw reported.

The camp is one of 13 built by the UNHCR in the Mosul area to cope with people fleeing from the city and surrounding villages.

It currently houses 6,235 people.

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Media captionIraqi troops are advancing against IS militants in western Mosul

Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led coalition, launched an offensive last October to recapture Mosul from IS.

They started an assault on the west of the city in February.

Fewer than 1,000 militants are now besieged in IS-controlled parts of the Old City and several adjoining northern districts, along with some 100,000 civilians.

More than 800,000 people - about a third of the pre-war population of Mosul - have been displaced since October, 633,000 of them from the west of the city.

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