Legislators want government to prioritize interventions towards nodding disease victims.

todayAugust 15, 2022

By Kei Emmanuel Duku.

Policy makers in Uganda have urged ministry of Health and Finance to expeditiously allocate funds to serve more than 4,000 citizens suffering from Nodding disease syndrome in Achoil and Lango Sub Regions. Nodding disease was first reported in Kitgum District in 1998, before spreading to the neighboring areas in late 2000’s.  
While tabling motion on the floor of parliament last week, Lilian Aber, Woman Member of Parliament elect for Kitgum District, said Kitgum district in the past weeks has registered 1,449 cases of Nodding disease syndrome which has resulted to increase in cases of mental health subsequently affected the unit.
She noted that since then government response towards the outbreak and those affected by Nodding disease syndrome has been very low despite policies put in place in 2012, by parliament authorizing government to spend 1.3B Shillings on the affected population. “We are calling government to ensure appropriate utilization of funds allocated towards nodding disease syndrome, fast track the operationalization of the existing rehabilitation centers, train medical personals, and facilitate adequate research towards Nodding syndrome disease” She stresses. She further explained that most victims suffering from the disease have been handicapped from taking active part in livelihood projects like agriculture while others suffer from other forms of violence.  “NGO’s have now taken the lead in food mobilization but it would have better if OPM takes on this and provide this affected families with adequate food and shelter because the parents of these children can hardly do productive venture for themselves and sometimes when the girls and women are left alone you find they are raped, defiled etc., others getting drowned in the Wells, its touching seeing young girls been raped and others getting pregnant at tender age. We need structured quarterly financial support to this families and the affected individuals” she noted.

Equally, Mathias Mpugga, Leader of Opposition in the Parliament, described the conditions of the affected population as dire and in need of government support because most of them has failed to provide themselves with basic needs. He also urged government to conduct immediate assessment on the socio-economic needs of the communities affected in order to be able to draw short and long term remedies and earmarked resources in the next financial year. “This families can hardly take their children to school, I was informed their parents cannot go to the farms because when they go this children are in high risk of either falling into the fire or Wells, most of them are malnourished because nobody cooks and get for them food because some of the parents have become victims too. So we need short time solutions it’s not talking about Parish Development Modal being government priority here  but the conditions of the affected population is a shame to us as leaders of this country” he said. Among the affected districts include Amuru, Omoro, Pader, Gulu, Lira and some parts of Kitgum, which to Ojara Martin Mapenduzi, Member of Parliament elect for Bardege-Layibi Division Gulu City, confirmed that since then the number of those affected has sharply risen to over 2,000 from 1,449 in the region with victims experiencing physical growth deformity, generalized wasting and other forms of impairments. Ojara said the disease is referred to as “Nodding Disease” because patients constantly experience signs of back and forward nodding or movement of their heads however since the first case was registered health experts have failed to establish the exact cause and the treatment of the disease within the affected communities. “The definite cause of nodding disease and its associated behaviors have not been authoritatively established for all this long, victims have been receiving what we call symptomatic management care but no emphasis has been put to trace its  cause and how it can be treated” echoed Ojara.

In the FY 2022/2023, Parliament allocated additional 5 Million for monitoring of the disease but Alum Sandra Ogwang Santa, Woman Member of Parliament representing Oyam District said there is need to create awareness in the affected population other than monitoring because section of the patients have resorted to witchcraft as no treatment has been identified. “About three weeks ago, when I was in my district, one of the many children affected was taken to the witchcraft and when I convinced them to go the hospital, they were also convinced that this was not a medical issue but witchcraft, these children need much more than monitoring, but they equally also need routine survey to ascertain their conditions and that of their families” explained Alum.

However, Anthony Akol Member of Parliament elect for Kilak South who also doubles as the Chairman Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) says the region has registered 545 fatalities, 606 sexually abused and while 516 have given birth after rape. Akol noted that the cases are still on increase with Pader District registering 2967 cases while Amuru registered 66 cases in the past days. According to him, Data from Centre for Disease Controls (CDC) linked the outbreak to areas previously in conflict contrary to report from the ministry of health which attributed the cause of the disease to “Black Flies”. “CDC are trying to rule out black flies as the cause which actually Ministry of Health is saying is the cause of the problem but actually this disease was in areas where there has been war. According to CDC the disease is in Northern Uganda, South Sudan and also it happened sometimes back in Tanzania where there was war, Can the Ministry of Health present the report on the disease from CDC to Parliament? Asked Akol. According to the Centre for Disease Control, nodding disease syndrome is a neurologic condition that is characterized by episodes of repetitive dropping forward of the head, often accompanied by other seizure like activity like convulsions or staring spells.

COVER PHOTO Parliament Courtesy photo By Kei Emmanuel Duku.

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