Food poisoning kills woman and child, hits hundreds at Iraqi camp

ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – A woman and a child died and hundreds fell ill in a mass outbreak of food poisoning at a camp for displaced people east of the Iraqi city of Mosul, officials said.

More than 300 people were hospitalized after breaking their Ramadan fast with an iftar meal on Monday night, aid groups told Reuters.

Many started vomiting and some fainted after eating rice, chicken, yogurt and soup, said Iraqi lawmaker Zahed Khatoun, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s committee for displaced people.

“It is tragic that this happened to people who have gone through so much,” said Andrej Mahecic, from the U.N.’s refugee agency UNHCR, which runs the camp and 12 others in the war-torn area with Iraqi authorities.

Many of the camp residents had fled fighting around Mosul as Iraqi government forces and their allies press an offensive to push Islamic State militants out of the northern city.

The International Organization for Migration said a Qatari aid group had paid a local restaurant to provide the food for the meal, though that was not confirmed by other agencies.

“I don’t know the name of the restaurant, but that’s what our person on the site is reporting today,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman said in Geneva.

“We are told 312 were hospitalized … one child and one adult woman we’re told died,” he added.

The camp in al-Khazer, on the road linking Mosul and Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, houses 6,300 people, the UNHCR said.

About 800,000 people, more than a third of the pre-war population of Mosul, have already fled the city, seeking refuge with friends and relatives or in camps.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli in Erbil and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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