The housing staff reportedly did not improve the family's living conditions despite repeated pleas.
Awaab Ishak, a 2-year-old boy, passed away in 2020 after reportedly suffering from respiratory conditions which were caused by exposure to mold in his home. According to BBC, the child resided in a one-bedroom flat with his parents Aisha Amin and Faisal Abdullah. Although the parents repeatedly raised complaints against the growing mold to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), no action was taken to improve their living conditions. It was concluded at the Rochdale Coroner's Court that Awaab passed away after suffering from a "severe respiratory condition caused due to prolonged exposure to mold in his home environment."
The inquest heard this week how a health visitor conducted an inspection in the housing unit in July 2020 and contacted RBH to raise awareness about the mold they found in the home. However, she did not receive a response. The court also heard that Awaab was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre on December 19 after he experienced difficulty in breathing and was transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital before being discharged. The boy's condition worsened the next day and he went into respiratory arrest followed by a cardiac arrest while being transferred to Oldham. He died after arriving there.
"We cannot tell you how many health professionals we've cried in front of and Rochdale Boroughwide Housing staff we have pleaded to, expressing concern for the conditions ourselves and Awaab have been living in," the youngster’s family said in a statement after a narrative conclusion was recorded at Rochdale coroner's court. "We shouted out as loudly as we could, but despite making all of those efforts, every night we would be coming back to the same problem." They added that they had "no doubt at all that we were treated this way because we are not from this country and less aware of how the systems in the UK work."
"Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, we have a message for you: stop discriminating. Stop being racist. Stop providing unfair treatment to people coming from abroad who are refugees or asylum seekers. Stop housing people in homes you know are unfit for human habitation. We were left feeling absolutely worthless at the hands of RBH," the grieving family said, reports The Guardian.
Senior coroner Joanne Kearsley said that "the tragic death of Awaab will, and should, be a defining moment for the housing sector in terms of increasing knowledge, increasing awareness and a deepening of understanding surrounding the issue of damp and mold."
"I'm sure I am not the only one asking 'how does this happen?'How, in the UK in 2020, does a two-year-old child die from exposure to mold in his home?'" she asked.
Addressing the youngster's parents, Kearsley said: "I hope you know that Awaab will surely make a difference for other people."
"Awaab's death should be a wake-up call for everyone in the housing, social care, and health department,” Chief executive of RBH, Gareth Swarbrick said. "We have and will continue to learn hard lessons from this. We must make sure this can never happen again." In the aftermath of this tragic incident, the government said that it would not stand for landlords failing their tenants anymore. The child's death was clearly "a tragic case" and the "circumstances in which he died were unacceptable," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's deputy spokeswoman said.
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