LONDON – “How is it possible that this is happening? How is it possible that in the UK, in 2020, a two-year-old child dies from exposure to mould?” Asked the question, somewhere between bewilderment and indignation , it is Joanne Kearsley, the coroner (the equivalent of our coroner or bailiff ed) who established that Awaab Ishak, a black boy of only two years, “died of a serious respiratory disease caused by exposure prolonged to mold in the domestic environment”.
Appeals that fell on deaf ears
The little boy lived in a council house in the suburbs of Manchester made available to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. A house, however, at the limits of legality: “It was not a space properly used for normal daily activities, which led to an excess of humidity and condensation”, explained the doctor in a local courtroom. Due to the increasingly precarious state of health of the child, the parents had turned to health professionals, as well as the managers of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. However, their every request for attention had fallen on deaf ears, while the son continued to cough. Stronger and louder. Longer and longer. “We cannot tell you how many times we have cried and pleaded in front of health workers and staff at Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, expressed concern about the conditions in which we and Awaab were living,” they explained to reporters outside the courtroom.
Accusations of racism
The couple are convinced that they have been victims of racism. “We have no doubt that we were treated this way because we are not from this country,” their bitter conclusion. They then ordered the company that manages these homes to “stop reserving unfair treatment of people from abroad who are refugees or asylum seekers, stop hosting people in homes that they know are unsuitable for human habitation.” Awaab’s father, Faisal Abdullah, arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker from Sudan in July 2015, before his wife Aisha Amin joined him in February 2018.
Fungi in the lungs and blood
Awaab had arrived at the hospital on 19 December 2020 with severe breathing difficulties but was discharged the following morning. Returned the next day, he had died of cardiac arrest. The throat, ascertained by the doctor who carried out the autopsy, was so swollen and congested that breathing was almost impossible. Fungi were found in the blood and lungs, which must have triggered an allergic reaction. In the report, the cause of death was attributed to “environmental mold pollution”..
Gareth Swarbrick, chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, said he was “really devastated by Awaab’s death and the mistakes he made”. We did not recognize the level of health risk to a child due to mold in the family’s home – he added – We have to make sure that this never happens again”. Mr. Abdullah had begun to notice “black dots” of mold in the kitchen in the now distant 2017 but was simply told to “repaint the walls” by the property managers. Faced with the worsening situation, he had asked to be able to change the apartment, but his request fell on deaf ears. “When someone came to the apartment they said it was disgusting and I felt sad about it – recalls the mother of the child – I preferred to visit my friends rather than have them come from we”.CopyAMP code