Thirteen people have died from suspected food poisoning after eating dinner at a
homestead at Kayova village, Ndiyona Constituency, in the Kavango East region.
The food was consumed on Saturday and the first two deaths were recorded in the early
hours of Sunday.
Ndiyona Constituency Councillor Laurentius Mukoya said drought and hunger has
affected many in the surrounding areas, and devastated the family of 22.
According to Mukoya, there is a belief the family got hold of the mahangu which they
had exchanged for reeds. The mahangu was apparently leftover from a cereal-based
traditional alcoholic drink, he said.
"People are suffering here due to drought and they went to work to cut reeds for
someone and they were paid with the traditional brew – the mahangu residue – which
they went to pound and made flour and cooked a meal which 18 people consumed and
they later started reacting to what they ate," the Councillor explained.
The traditional brew known as 'mundevere' is made from a combination of mahangu,
water and sugar.
"Many have been affected by drought this year, with the little rain the family has not
work on the land and they make a living by selling reeds. The grandfather is the only one
that benefits from a government pension grant, which is too little to take care of such a
huge family," Mukoya explained.
The two Kavango regions have received very little rainfall this year.
A further five people reportedly died on Monday and six more deaths were reported on
Tuesday afternoon, bringing the number to 13, while five are still in critical condition, in
total eighteen were reported hospitalised.
The 18 members of a household who ate the toxic food were between the ages of two and
Kavango East Regional Crime Investigations Coordinator, Deputy Commissioner
Bonifatius Kanyetu, told The Villager "we were at the place of the incident to investigate
what had transpired at the village.
"We will wait for postmortem results to determine whether we are dealing with a case of
food poisoning or not. These people are all from one homestead and some of the
deceased are school going children," Kanyetu said.
Meanwhile, according to Ben Nangombe, the Executive Director in the Ministry of
Health and Social Services, a team of social workers have been deployed to provide
psychosocial support and counselling to the bereaved family, adding the Ministry will
also provide health education to members of the community on food.
The Ministry has urged the public to always wash pots and other cooking tools with
clean water as precautions to avoid food poisoning.
It also encouraged the public to store food in a safe place to prevent access by rodents
and other vermin.
"Households are urged to maintain general cleanliness and personal hygiene. Keep raw
and cooked foods separate. It is illegal to serve alcoholic products to children under the
age of 18 years. Report any suspected food poisoning. Seek medical attention
immediately when suspecting food poisoning to health authorities," the Ministry stated.