HC Deb 12 December 1934 vol 296 cc365-6
14. Mr. PALING

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give any information to the House as to the circumstances in which a number of native school girls in Tanganyika met their deaths as a result of drinking a poisonous liquid by mistake; and what steps have been taken to avoid the possibility of any such occurrence in the future?


I deeply regret this tragic occurrence. I understand that on the morning of the 25th October, doses of what was thought to be shark oil, which had been used with success at hospitals in Tanganyika as a substitute for cod liver oil, were issued, on the instructions of the headmistress, herself a doctor, to the pupils at Malangali girls' school. It has now been established, however, that the liquid used was not shark oil, but some form of disinfectant resembling it in appearance but containing arsenic, with the result that all who had taken doses, including the headmistress herself, became ill, and 35 of the girls died. It is not yet definitely known how the mistake occurred. Further investigations are proceeding, and I will communicate to the hon. Member any further information I receive. As regards the second part of the question, orders were issued immediately after the occurrence to every Government station, and to all hospitals, tribal dressing stations, dispensaries, and mission stations to the effect that the use of shark's oil must be discontinued at once until after the matter had been investigated. The question of what further action may be necessary must naturally depend on the result of the investigation.


Have the deaths that have followed this unfortunate occurrence had an effect upon the disposition of parents to send their children to the schools?


I think I would like notice of that question. I should very much doubt it, as it is clear, from the very prompt action that was taken, that the facts of this most unhappy and unfortunate occurrence are fully understood and realised.