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Four dead, one admitted after consuming poisonous cassava in Siaya

By Isaiah Gwengi and Olivia odhiambo | September 19th 2016
Roseline Flavian (left) receives treatment at Siaya Referral hospital after suffering complications that killed four of his siblings. The family ate what is suspected to be poisonous cassava at Barding village in Siaya County. (PHOTO: DENISH OCHIENG/ STANDARD)

SIAYA, KENYA: Four relatives died after eating suspected poisonous cassava in Bar Agulu village of Siaya County.

Vivian Juliet (15), Steven Otieno (13), Christine Faith (11) and Calvince Otieno (8) were pupils at Barding Primary School. Another victim, Rosely Flavia, is in critical condition at the Siaya County Referral Hospital.

The five were said to have consumed the cassava, which they harvested from their parents' farm, on Saturday morning.

According to Dr Chengek Chemungu who attended to the children before they died on Sunday morning, three arrived in critical condition but later died before 4am on Sunday.

He said one of the children had died at a private facility in Baragulu and was taken to the county referral mortuary when they arrived at the hospital around 3am.


"We managed to treat the mother and two other children who also complained of stomach and lower back pain but the other three were critical and died while being treatment. We have already allowed the mother and one of her daughters to go home but Flavia is still getting treatment," confirmed the doctor.

Dr Chemungu established that the family had eaten poisonous cassava on Saturday morning, prompting the illness.

Speaking to The Standard at their Baragulu home, Penina Ouma, the mother of the four deceased children, narrated her last moments with them.

She said the family had listened to the radio up to 10.30pm on Saturday night before one of her children began complaining of a stomach ache.

"My children loved dancing and because there was a music programme on a local radio station, I had asked them to dance for a fee. I had promised that whoever won would get Sh20 from me," recalled Ms Ouma.

"When one started complaining of a stomach ache, we didn't think it was serious. But my little boy kept complaining and then he started vomiting and shaking. I realised there was something very wrong."

Ouma said one of her daughters said she would prepare some local herbs known as 'mwarubanne' to treat her brother who was getting worse by the minute.

"But before the traditional medicine was ready, he fell down and lost consciousness. My husband and I decided to take all of them to the nearby hospital called Ashburn because they were now all complaining of stomach and lower back pain," she narrated.

Ouma recounted how the older children were able to walk to the nearest medical facility while she carried the little boy, whom she fondly referred to as Junior, to the hospital.

She told The Standard that they decided to go the county referral hospital after Junior died and the remaining children got worse.

"What shocked me is the fact that they were getting worse one after the other, yet when we left the house they were all walking except the little one. I lost all of them by 4am," said the grieving mother.


Ouma said before she left home to visit her eldest son who in Ukwala Boys' Secondary School on Saturday morning, the four deceased had said they were going to harvest the remaining cassava from their farm.

The four had agreed that they would bring some home to prepare for lunch and when she got home in the evening, they brought some to the table for her to eat.

"One of the boys who died is the one who brought the cassava to the table and asked me to have a bite of what they had cooked. I ate it and asked them to keep the rest for Sunday breakfast," added Ouma.

She revealed that of the four deceased, two were her biological children and the other two were her brother and sisters' children who had died a few years ago.

She said the children had been under her care since their parents passed away.

Fredrick Amollo from Seme, who is the biological father of three children, said he received the information about his children's deaths from an in-law.

Siaya OCPD Ancient Kaloki said the deceased's parents were not on the farm when the incident happened.

The bodies have since been moved to the hospital mortuary.

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