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Shs1.3 billion approved for Nodding Syndrome

Parliament has approved a supplementary budget amounting to Shs1.3 billion for emergency intervention against the Nodding Syndrome in northern Uganda.

The Minister of State for Planning, David Bahati, tabled a motion seeking Parliament's approval for government to spend the money before the new financial year. The Minister tabled the motion during the plenary sitting chaired by Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, Thursday, 29 March 2018.

The aim is to respond to the situation for the next three months as considerations will be taken to include comprehensive management of the Nodding Syndrome in the 2018/2019 budget, said Bahati.

The approved funds will cater for various items including allowances for health workers during outreach visits as well as training of health workers to handle cases of Nodding Syndrome. The funds will go to the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Amuru, Pader, Lira, Oyam, Lamwo and Omoro.

This money will be sent direct to the District Local Governments and not to the Ministry of Health since it is an emergency fund, said Bahati.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said that the budget was agreed upon in consultation with District Health Officers.

The money was allocated according to the disease burden in the districts affected by the Nodding Syndrome, said Aceng.

She added that the guidelines on the use of the money will be tabled, adding that priority areas are feeding, outreach and clinical services.

The MPs however cautioned the Ministry of Health against misuse of the funds saying that lives of the children should be priority.

The guidelines should be able to respond to the situation for better impact, or else, this budget we have passed will go to waste, said Odonga Otto (FDC, Aruu County).

The Leader of Opposition, Winfred Kiiza stressed that priority should be on feeding, rehabilitation and treatment.

We don't want to hear that the biggest chunk of this money has been spent on workshops, allowances and travels while children are dying, said Kiiza.

Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC, Kiira Municipality) said that government should put in place appropriate structures for emergency response before the money is released.

Even as we approve this budget, we need to be sure that it will serve the intended purpose, said Ssemujju.

Lamwaka Catherine (NRM, Omoro) pointed out that government should change strategy while responding to the situation.

In the past, we did not achieve much because government wasted time and money by working through inter-ministerial committees, said Lamwaka.

According to the statement presented by the Minister of State for Health, Sarah Opendi, to the House on 14 March 2018, the Nodding Syndrome burden stands at 2,143 while the deaths recorded are 137.

The Nodding Syndrome is a neurological disorder, a condition that affects the nervous system. It affects children between the ages of 3-18, and those in a specific geographical location during a specific period. The nodding disease syndrome presents with seizures, head nodding, cognitive impairment and multiple disabilities. The disease has also affected children in Tanzania and South Sudan.

Source: Parliament of Uganda

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