• The victims allegedly collected the contaminated maize flour at Kang’oki dumpsite in Kamenu ward on Saturday last week where they scavenge to earn a living.
• Residents say poverty and the high cost of living have pushed most of them to the dumpsite.
Two people, among them a three-year-old child, have died after consuming ugali prepared with contaminated maize flour in Thika.
The other, a 17-year-old boy succumbed while receiving treatment at Thika Level 5 Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
Seven others are recuperating at the hospital, three of them in critical condition, according to hospital medical superintendent Dr Waturi Kibuti.
The victims allegedly collected the contaminated maize flour at Kang’oki dumpsite in Kamenu ward on Saturday last week, where they scavenge to earn a living.
Residents said the maize flour was dumped by a lorry, from an unidentified miller, that came from Nairobi.
Dr Kibuti on Tuesday told journalists that the victims were brought to the facility with breathing difficulties while others were unconscious.
“This morning we received eight patients from Kang’oki dumpsite area in Thika to our casualty section. So far, one patient is critical, three are very sickly and four are stable. We are hoping for the best. We lost a three-year-old last evening,” she said.
Dr Kibuti said that medical investigations to establish what affected the victims have been launched. She said public health officers and environment officers have been dispatched to the dumpsite and Kiganjo village.
“Once everything is ready, we shall be able to give a comprehensive report on what transpired. Our officers are conducting medical investigations to unravel the tragedy,” she said.
Mirriam Njambi, the mother of the deceased kid, said she went back home from work and found her child in bed wreathing in pain.
“I enquired what happened and her brother who has also been hospitalised told me that the ate ugali made with maize flour they collected at the dumpsite. I gave her water and massaged her stomach and she started vomiting. I rushed her to hospital but she passed on around midnight,” the distraught mother said.
Njambi said poverty and the high cost of living have pushed most of them to the dumpsite where they scavenge to earn a living. She said this is not the first time they have collected and consumed food from the dumpsite.
“We usually collect food like chapati and well-wrapped meat and we eat. On whether it affects us or makes us ill, it depends on how one’s stomach is. You can get stomach upsets or not,” she said.
Njambi urged the relevant authorities to investigate and establish the company that dumped the contaminated maize flour at the dumpsite instead of destroying it properly to avoid posing danger to other people’s health.
“The problem is not the lorry that brought the maize flour but the company that failed to dispose it properly. We want the authorities to take stern action for us to get justice,"she said.
"Again, we are pleading with the Kiambu county government to be cautious and ensure the waste dumped at Kang’oki does not put our safety at peril.”
Resident Simon Kioko who ate on the food said they collected the maize flour last Saturday at the dumpsite in Kiambu county and stored it until Monday when they cooked ugali.
“We normally camp at the dumpsite and wait for lorries to offload waste. The unga we took on Saturday is the one we used to cook ugali. A few hours after eating we started feeling dizziness, we called our mum who took our younger sister to the hospital when her condition deteriorated,” he said.
Area leaders, led by Kamenu MCA Peter Mburu, warned county officials who are in charge of managing dumpsites of reluctance and ignorance, saying the tragedy would have been contained if the officials were vigilant.
“I’m also appealing to residents of Kiganjo who consumed a meal made from the maize flour to visit the nearest hospital and seek treatment before it is too late,” Mburu said.
Kang’oki dumpsite, the biggest waste management centre in Central Kenya harbours more than 1,500 residents who scavenge for scrap metals, plastics and other items which they later sell to make a coin.