The first time I understood the term displaced person, was from my carpenter friend John Kierkegaard who, in the Danish tradition, had a beer at morning coffee, one at lunch, and one at afternoon coffee.
He told tales of bicycling 20-30 km/h with full infantry gear during WW II, and how he migrated to Canada at the end of the war as a displaced person.
On June 12, 2017, at sundown, hundreds of residents of one of the many tent camps that have sprawled across the barren landscape around Mosul gathered for iftar, the evening meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast. They were treated to a meal of chicken, rice, soup, beans and yogurt — paid for by a Qatari charity and prepared by a restaurant in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region.
Within hours, hundreds fell sick, vomiting and suffering from diarrhea. Overnight, until about 4 a.m., ambulances and cars rushed victims to hospitals, said Alaa Muhsin, an ambulance driver from Baghdad who works at the camp.
The period between when the food was cooked and then transported to the IDP camps resulted in the food poisoning of over 825 displaced persons from Mosul in southwestern Erbil.
“After we carried out an investigation of the case, we found out the cause of the food poisoning was due to the long period between preparing and consuming the food as it was packed in plastic containers and transferred to the camps,” Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi said on Monday in a press conference.
“There were no deliberate intentions to poison IDPs by those who cooked the food,” he added.
“The food itself was okay, but the delay between the preparation of the meals and their distribution, along with the improper storing of the food, was the reason hundreds of IDPs became ill,” Hadi emphasized, stating the case had been sent to court.
The Governor previously mentioned the food was cooked at 9:00 a.m. then transferred to the camp at 1:00 p.m. The food was later distributed between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.
Following the incident, seven people were arrested, six from the restaurant where the meals were prepared and one from a charity organization.
The restaurant was also closed, Erbil police previously informed.
Hadi noted the food should be prepared at the camps and that premade meals are forbidden.
He thanked the Peshmerga and security members for quickly transporting 638 IDPs to hospitals in Erbil to receive prompt medical treatment, while the remaining were treated at the camps.
The Erbil Health Department’s Director-General Saman Hussein Barzinjy told Kurdistan24 the group which delivered the donation did not take into consideration health hazards related to food preparation and distribution.
At the time, Barzinjy mentioned one of the camp’s inhabitants had died from food poisoning.
However, a statement released on Tuesday apologized for the misinformation, assuring no one had died, adding the condition of the child who was thought dead was “stable.”
The Kurdistan Region is home to almost two million IDPs and refugees who fled from the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.