Time check 2:32pm. Jasper Okello a 47year old boda-boda rider in Teso Bar, check Adyel division, Lira municipality receives a phone call from his neighbour that his five children and wife had been rushed to a medical facility in a very bad state.
Rachael Atim, the neighbour during the phone conversation tells the commercial cyclist that his family members were vomiting uncontrollably and complaining of severe stomach upset a few minutes after having lunch.
Okello is among thousands of families who benefited from government’s food relief intervention to salvage famine stricken communities in Lango sub region.
He says his wife and children started complaining shortly after consuming relief rice which was given to them last week.
He suspects that the rice could be responsible for the vomiting and stomach upset his family members experienced after health workers at a medical facility where his wife and children were rushed, treated them for food poisoning.
Twenty Kilometers away in the neighboring Kole district, another family of three reported to Ayer Health centre after shortly after having lunch of the relief rice.
Otim Reuben, the head of this family based in Bala trading centre, Kole district says he was out in the field tending to his crops when news of his family members being rushed for medical attention reached him.
Following these two incidents and others, many beneficiaries of the relief rice in Lango sub region have become apprehensive about its quality and safety.
Trevor Olwit, a resident of Adyel Division, Lira municipality, discloses that following several reports suggesting that people consuming the rice developed complications, he has instructed his wife to dump eight kilograms of the cereal for fear of being poisoned.
Olwit says he became suspicious about the rice due to its strange scent, yellowish colour and instructions by distributors for beneficiaries to wash it three times before cooking.
The rice distributed to hunger stricken communities in different parts of the country was donated to Uganda by the Chinese government in March this year.
Beneficiaries claim, this last instruction is to rid the rice of chemicals that they suspect is harmful to human life.
This reporter has established that several beneficiary families have either sold off the rice to alcohol brewers or fed it off to pigs and other domestic animals.
Anthony Ojuka, the Lira district secretary for Production and natural resources downplays the fears and reassures that the quality of the relief rice is fit for human consumption.
Ojuka challenges that families whose members developed health complications after consuming the cereal must have only developed an allergic reaction since they were not used to eating rice but cassava.
Several anti-government elements in the region have since started circulating reports that the rice may be laced with poison.
The critics mainly from opposition parties allege that the distribution of the suspicious rice in the region may be to punish the populace there for allegedly refusing to vote for the ruling party candidate and President Yoweri Museveni in the last election in 2016.
These claims are however rubbished by Kole Resident District Commissioner Akello Ebong who terms them as unfounded and researched.