Stop riding on pains of nodding disease

Politicians should stop riding on the pains of children who suffer from the incurable nodding disease syndrome. In recent days, the debilitating condition became campaign stamp speeches for both NRM and FDC presidential candidates in Acholi. Both NRM candidate Museveni and FDC’s Kizza Besigye painted half-truths about the disease, which remains mystic and incurable. Besigye labelled the syndrome an NRM disease with no previous examples. But Museveni dismissed the disease as not new, with its cause established and the situation contained by government.

These statements are far from the truth. Efforts by our health workers and the Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta, USA, has not unravelled the incurable condition nor established any concrete causes. What is partially clear is researchers have linked the syndrome to areas affected by wars, displaced persons camps, and black fly bites in northern Uganda and Mundri County in South Sudan.

Nonetheless, the sad fact is the complex nodding syndrome has since 2012 ruined the lives of between 3,000 and 5,000 Ugandan children, and killed another estimated 500. Survivors suffer seizures, mental retardation, and must stay on medication for the rest of their lives. Sadly, government has established only seven treatment centres in northern Uganda to manage the children.

Worse, as the children fight for their lives, there is no enough funding. In Gulu, in the last one year, the children have been virtually forgotten and no outreach funds made available. Besides, only 15 of 26 personnel are available to manage at least 326 reported cases in the district.

This means the frequent home visits and monitoring of the children is poor. Despite this hopeless situation, politicians remained dead quiet. So why are our politicians screaming about the plight of the handicapped children now?

Only voices of Kitgum Woman MP Beatrice Anywar and Kilak County MP Gilbert Olanya have been loud on the issue. The empty noises, half-truths, bordering on misrepresentations by politicians now, are insensitive to the suffering children. Government only took any serious step after Ms Anywar bused the children to national referral hospital Mulago. And again when she and Mr Olanya took government to court for poor handling of the situation. More action was only forced when High Court Justice Stephen Musota referred the case for mandatory mediation. It was such actions that forced government take about 10 of the invalids to the US for serious investigation.

Therefore, even as our politicians seek votes, none of them should take aantage of the desperate situation of affected children. Let our politicians neither posture nor play the blame-game but push for saving the children from the nodding disease syndrome.

The issue: Nodding disease

Our view: Let our politicians neither posture nor play the blame-game but push for saving the children from the nodding disease syndrome.



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