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Agony of mother and son who ate toxic seed maize

By | October 28th 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Anne Kanina and Phillip Muasya

What should have been a source of hope has turned into agony for a mother and his son in Matuu, Yatta District.

As other families in the area celebrate the advent of seasonal rains and go on a planting spree, the man and his mother have just been discharged from hospital after eating seed maize meant for planting, unaware that it was treated with insecticides.

The two, Ndunge Mutuku, 86 and her son Ngosi Mutuku, 57 threw caution to the wind and cooked the DH4 maize, treated with insecticide and preservatives, when the pangs of hunger became unbearable.

The maize was part of a free Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) and Government consignment delivered to the area ahead of the rains.Facing famine

Aware that local people who were facing famine might be tempted to eat the seed maize, the KRCS had gone to great extent to make sure the warning, not to eat the maize, reached every homestead.

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A woman prepares maize for milling in Yatta. Photo: Jonah Onyango/Standard

After weeks of holding training barazas sponsored by KRCS, the distribution project was launched.

Entrusting metric 200 tonnes of seed maize to people in a part of the country hard hit by drought was a big risk but the El Nino rains was expected to set in any time, necessitating early distribution, said Abbas Gullet, the Secretary General KRCS.

The Provincial Administration officials who joined the distribution campaign in Yatta told residents to monitor each other to ensure no one consumed the maize.

A slogan, ‘name and shame those who put the maize to any other use’ was coined and translated into Kikamba language and residents told to use it on those found selling or consuming the maize.

Then KRCS distributed 10kg of maize seed to each household. The confidence that the seeds would remain secure rested on the community members’ self monitoring.

"The maize seeds are for keeping until the planting season when they will be planted. With the prevailing drought, the temptation to sell or eat the seeds is great. Therefore be vigilant so that no one trades with their share," explained Abdi Shakur KRCS Disaster Manager of the area.Planting starts

The KRCS later reported that residents enthusiastically got down to planting when the rains started about two weeks ago.

Part from incidents of selling seed maize to shopkeepers and to each other, the local administration had not reported any case of eating the seed maize.

However, the goodwill nearly turned tragic when the two family members cooked the maize after going for days without food.

The incident that happened last week left the residents of Masewani village in Matuu bewildered as the maize is known to contain poison.

Ngosi lives with his ageing mother after his wife left him and earned his daily bread by doing odd jobs.

Ngosi who was admitted for a day with his mother at a Matuu District Hospital said they had gone for four days without food when they decided to try to the seed maize for food.

"We had not been supplied with seed maize. One of our neighbours brought two kilogrammes of the maize for us to plant but I saw it as a hand of God and immediately soaked it in water to remove the green colouring," says Ngosi.

He boiled the maize after what he thought was a thorough wash then took his share.

Afterwards he gave his mother who was agonising in her bed weakened by hunger. The old woman took some spoonfuls but the smell and taste of the meal discouraged her.Four days

"Even though I had not eaten anything for four days, the meal was unpalatable. It had a strong smell and left a bitter taste in the mouth," she said.

A neighbour Musili Mailu was alarmed when he visited the two to find the remaining meal with greenish colouring on top and the victims lying on their beds complaining of severe stomach pains.

He took them to Matuu District Hospital where they were treated for food poisoning .

The hospital Clinical Officer Martin Mwangangi confirmed treating the two for food poisoning, adding that they were also counselled on food nutrition.

Kenya toxic food toxic maize poisoned maize poisoned maize
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