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10 October 2011

HAZMAT in Namibia on Monday, 10 October, 2011 at 07:12 (07:12 AM) UTC.

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Seven children have died and one is in a critical condition in the Kavango Region due to poisoning by an unknown substance. A 10-month-old baby is in stable condition at the Andara Catholic hospital, 200 kilometres east of Rundu. While speculation is rife that the children died after eating cooked maize that was exposed to a toxic chemical, doctors say tests have not yet determined the source of and the chemical responsible for the deaths. Eight of the nine children who were admitted to the Andara Catholic hospital early last week are from Kahanga village in the Mukwe Constituency, 180 kilometres east of Rundu. The ninth child was allegedly visiting the village the night before they took ill. Eight of the nine children were referred to the Rundu State Hospital after their condition became critical. However, one child died on Wednesday before he could be transferred. The others died at the Rundu State Hospital. On Friday, the Police were joined by a forensic team from Windhoek at the village where they hoped to discover the source of the poisoning.

The teams also visited the nearby Shadikongoro Irrigation project, from where the villagers often buy their maize. The autopsies on the children showed that they died from acute liver failure. According to Dr Yuri Yangazov, medical superintendent at the Rundu Intermediate Hospital, samples have been taken to test for poison. According to doctors at the Andara Catholic Hospital, situated 200 km east of Rundu, the first child was admitted to hospital on Monday a week ago. During the next 24 hours, a further eight children were brought to hospital with the same symptoms – convulsions, loss of consciousness and vomiting. Dr Bekinkosi Ncomanzi, the chief medical officer at Andara Hospital, said the first child arrived at the hospital after he had collapsed at school. Tests revealed the child had a low blood-sugar level and doctors thought he was suffering from malnutrition. He was given food and sent home. However, later that day a further three children and the first patient were again admitted and doctors began to suspect poisoning. Despite reports that the children were poisoned by chemicals mixed in with maize they had taken to school, Dr Ncomanzi said it is too early to reach a conclusion. He said he and a team of doctors visited Kahanga village and the irrigation project early in the week to see if they could find the source of the poison.

The Rundu hospital’s Dr Yangazov said the children must have come into close contact with a toxic substance which led to complete liver failure. He said this is not the first time he has dealt with fatal poisonings in the region.
According to Nampa the deceased are Thikambo Ndunda (11), Basilius Moyo (9), Murare Mbuve (9), Tina Kunyima (2), Tivi Marungu (5), Mupaye Mukenge (18) and Thikambo Kathongo (8). Aplonia Thikamo (8) is in critical condition at the Rundu hospital while 10-month-old Diyeve Makushe is reportedly in stable condition at Andara Catholic Hospital. Nampa reported last week that in February 2010, seven people died after eating traditional vegetables known as 'mutete'. The incident occurred at Shinunga village situated 90 km east of Rundu in the Mashare Constituency. In February this year, three people at Muveve village near Rundu also died of poisoning.