More than 180 children from a government-run orphanage on Sunday fell seriously ill after consuming substandard food, which caused excessive vomiting and partial unconsciousness.
The children sheltered by Pakistan Sweet Homes (PSH), a project of Pakistan Baitul Mal (PBM), were rushed to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) for medical treatment. Some of the kids were also taken to Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi for treatment.
PIMS spokesperson Dr Ayesha Isani said around 185 kids suffering from diarrhea were brought to the hospital’s emergency department at around 10am in the morning. Sixty of them were admitted due to their serious condition while the rest were discharged after preliminary treatment. Ten children were still admitted to the hospital when this report was filed on Sunday evening.
The spokesperson confirmed that the children fell ill as a result of food poisoning. “About 60 per cent suffered from food poisoning but there condition is now stable,” she told the media on Sunday afternoon.
PSH Patron-in-Chief Zamurd Khan told said the children were served bread and milk for breakfast and said they were investigating the issue behind the mass sickness.
PBM Managing Director Barrister Abid Waheed Sheikh said there were around 400 children at the orphanage. “Children who had no symptoms of food poisoning were also taken to Pims and the Holy Family Hospital for a checkup,” he said.
He said though most children have been discharged from Pims, they would remain under medical care at PSH.
PBM Medical Director Dr Javed Iqbal said stale bread might have caused the food poisoning, since consumption of bread is low during Ramazan. Iqbal said most children were treated for dehydration after vomiting caused by food poisoning, coupled with extremely hot weather.
Pakistan Baitul Mal has 35 sweet homes across the country. Of them, it has outsourced 17 to various organisations.
Sheikh said this particular orphanage where the incident occurred is currently being sponsored by three different sources. “These sponsors are responsible for financing. They overlook all matters including food, education and clothing for the children,” he added.
The managing director said that an inquiry committee had been formed under the supervision of deputy managing director to probe the incident. The committee is expected to present its preliminary report on Monday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2015.