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Cultural Practices Spark Safety Concerns for Children with Hydrocephalus in Acholi :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Cultural Practices Spark Safety Concerns for Children with Hydrocephalus in Acholi

Isaac Odongo, the Project Officer at Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Uganda (SHAU) says the majority of children born with the condition in the region are considered as curses by their parents or community members.

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Public Health specialists have raised fears over isolated cases of cultural practices that are threatening the lives and recovery of children suffering from hydrocephalus in the Acholi Sub-region.

Hydrocephalus occurs when the body makes more cerebrospinal fluid than the brain absorbs, causing the child’s head to swell abnormally big.

Isaac Odongo, the Project Officer at Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Uganda (SHAU) says the majority of children born with the condition in the region are considered as curses by their parents or community members.

Odongo was speaking on Thursday during a media engagement with news reporters and editors from Acholi and Lango Subregions held in Gulu City.

He says most of the time, the patients are isolated from the community, and in some worst instances, they are intentionally drowned in rivers or streams as a ritual act to cleanse the parents.

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Odongo says the practice is a huge burden for organizations that are Injecting millions of shillings into conducting specialized surgeries and rehabilitation services.

He however notes that the same concern is also being registered in communities where children are born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don't form properly and occurs in 1 out of 1,000 live births.

According to Odongo, the limited knowledge about both Spina bifida and Hydrocephalus conditions in the communities coupled with limited facilities to handle them has worsened the situation.

Clients flock to Gulu Regional Referral Hospital from where they are referred to specialized hospitals in Mbale, Mbarara Cities, and Mulago National Referral Hospital for treatment.

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Odongo says although there is no national database to consolidate the statics of Hydrocephalus, regional data indicates Lango Sub-region leads in cases of hydrocephalus followed by the Acholi Sub-region.

Statistics from CURE Children’s Hospital in Mbale which specializes in the treatment of neurological conditions show that there was an increment in the cases of the spina bifida and hydrocephalus condition between 2016 and 2021.

Figures show that a total of 1,244 children underwent surgeries for Spina Bifida at the facility between 2016 and 2021 while 5,638 children were operated on for hydrocephalus during the same period.

Tom Bernard Nakhosi, an occupational Therapist at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital says whereas the community perceives those with the condition negatively, the causes are linked with environmental factors, genetics, and nutrition.

He notes that children suffering from both spina bifida and hydrocephalus can make a good recovery once they are referred for medical attention at an early stage.

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An average of 940 surgeries have been conducted for children with hydrocephalus annually in the last six years at CURE Children’s Hospital in Mbale City while an estimated 800 children are born with spina bifida conditions annually according to statistics provided by SHAU. 

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