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7 Dez 2016

Isaac Khisa, Independent (Uganda)

Uganda: Women working at Royal Van Zanten flower farm poisoned by pesticides - Trade Minister dismisses workers' claims to protect flower industry

Poison at Dutch flower farm, 5 Dec 2016

[Workers] at Royal Van Zanten, the Dutch flower-exporting firm with greenhouses...at Buloba...are mainly poor, uneducated women... Most of them cannot read. So they also had no way of knowing that...the company was allegedly exposing them to deadly chemicals... 

Jennifer [Janepher] Nassali, the general secretary of the Uganda Horticultural Industrial Services Provider and Allied Workers Union (UHISPAWU), says the women suffered skin and eye irritations, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and dizziness after being ordered told to cut flowers from greenhouses that had been fumigated with toxic chemicals less than 24 hours earlier. Neighbours to the Buloba farm say they saw many women being rushed to hospital... Polyne Nakabugo, another worker battling skin and eye irritation, vomiting and dizziness says the farm does not give workers protective gear... Dr. Boaz Tumuhairwe, who is treating the women at the hospital...[said] various tests...confirm that the patients were poisoned.

Sam Wambi, the Royal Van Zanten human resource manager in Uganda...confirmed...the women had been sickened by metam sodium poisoning... Wambi said...use of the chemical would resume after precautions required to be followed when using the pesticide were installed. Wambi...could not offer a fuller explanation and referred us to the Country Managing Director, Feico Smit. But Feico has chosen not to speak...

Mercy Grace Munduru...[of] the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Uganda)...said the poisoning is being treated as a violation of the human rights of workers.

But the Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde, does not want to hear of the complaints. On Nov. 17 she dismissed reports that any workers were poisoned... [She] said, when tests were carried out on the...workers...they proved negative according to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development... She stormed Ntinda Hospital where a section of the company’s workers had been hospitalised and said her Ministry will continue to handle the matter jointly with the Ministry of Labour “to ensure that Uganda does not lose the market for her flowers abroad”.

Dr. Tumuhairwe says the affected workers can still work in the flower farms if they wear protective gear. “For those who have been admitted all this long, we advise them to have a long rest as we keep on recalling them for medical review,” she said. But...many of the women...have resumed work. And they have not been provided with any new protective gear.