Bad food downs 170 kids

2019-02-27 15:59

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More than 170 pupils from Sombongangani Primary School in Elandskop, were treated for suspected food poisoning at different local hospitals this week.

While the cause of the outbreak is still under investigation parents are pointing the finger at amasi that was provided through the school’s nutrition programme on Monday.

Ncumisa Mafunda, spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department, said while she could not confirm the source of the alleged poisoning on Tuesday, she could confirm that 84 pupils were treated at Edendale Hospital and discharged, 58 pupils were treated at Northdale Hospital and 29 at Grey’s.

Of these two of the sick pupils had to be admitted to hospital — one at Northdale and one at Grey’s. Both were reported to be stable on Tuesday and likely to be discharged.

She said some of the pupils — boys and girls aged from six years to 13 years — went to their local clinics for initial treatment and were then referred to hospitals.

“Some of the pupils went directly to Edendale Hospital and did not go via their local clinics,” said Mafunda.

Mafunda said the district’s communicable disease section and the local environmental health office are looking into the matter.

A mother, who asked not to be named to protect the identity of her child, told The Witness on Tuesday that she returned from work late on Monday afternoon to find her son, who is in Grade 1, vomiting and with a high temperature.

She rushed him to Songonzima Clinic but they closed before her son was assisted. She then called an ambulance for the child, but it never came.

“We were going to take him to the doctor today but he woke up feeling much better. He didn’t go to school today because we wanted to make sure he has recovered fully.”

The woman said when she called the school the principal disputed that the children had fallen sick after eating amasi. She said the principal said the children probably ate chips because they were throwing up “red stuff”.

Another mother told The Witness that her six-year-old daughter, also in Grade 1, was admitted to Grey’s Hospital after an episode of vomiting left her feeling very weak.

The woman said she was crying alongside other distressed mothers at the hospital, all thinking the worst.

“All the children were treated and discharged but my daughter was kept overnight for observation.

“She seems to be feeling much better now as she is also able to walk on her own,” said the mother.

She said the children told her that there was a “yellowish margarine-like” substance in the amasi they ate, and that it tasted sour.

Kwazi Mthethwa, spokesperson for the Department of Education, said the school’s nutrition programme was provided by an outsourced company.

“The agreement between the department and service providers is that they provide heathy food to the pupils.

“If indeed it is found that it was the food that made the pupils sick, then we will deal with the matter accordingly,” said Mthethwa.

Principal Lindiwe Zama refused to comment and referred The Witness to the Department of Education. She declined to reveal who the school’s nutrition programme service provider was.

Sandile Ngubane, the ward councillor in the area, said the school had also refused to tell community leaders the name of the company in charge of the school’s nutrition programme.

“The school told us that they were still doing laboratory investigations to find if the cause of the outbreak was from the food consumed by the children or not. We asked that they let us know as soon as the results come back,” said Ngubane.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  food poisoning

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