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MPs Take Voluntary Visit to Nodding Syndrome Affected Areas

Nodding syndrome, according to the World Health Organisation, affects children between the ages of 5 and 15 years old, causing progressive cognitive dysfunction, neurological deterioration, stunted growth and a characteristic nodding of the head. Despite numerous and extensive investigations, very little is known about the cause of the disease.
19 Mar 2018 16:53

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Fifteen legislators are taking a voluntary trip to the Northern Uganda districts of Kitgum, Pader and Omoro to ascertain the status of nodding syndrome.

The move follows conflicting reports from the Ministry of Health and area Members of Parliament on the number of cases and deaths recorded in the districts since the outbreak of the disease, whose cause or origin remains unknown.

Nodding syndrome, according to the World Health Organisation, affects children between the ages of 5 and 15 years old, causing progressive cognitive dysfunction, neurological deterioration, stunted growth and a characteristic nodding of the head. Despite numerous and extensive investigations, very little is known about the cause of the disease.

Although the Ministry says the neurological condition has claimed 130 lives, area leaders say that more than 1000 children have succumbed to the disease. There was also controversy over the operations of Nodding syndrome treatment centres in Odek and Tumangur which members insist are closed even though the ministry insists that they are operating normally.

The visit also comes at the time of a heated debate on the need for funding towards the management and control of Nodding syndrome.

Ngora County MP David Abala, the leader of the group says members need to get first hand information on the management of nodding syndrome in the districts. 

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Kumi Municipality MP Cyrus Aogon says that although nodding syndrome requires being dealt with as an emergency, several legislators had turned it political. The MP is optimistic that the visit will help them to understand the Dynamics involved in the management of nodding disease and improve the level of debate in the house.

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Nodding Syndrome was first documented in the United Republic of Tanzania (URT) in the 1960s, then later in the Republic of South Sudan in the 1990s and in northern Uganda in 2007.

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah has in the recent past accused government of neglecting sufferers of nodding disease children arguing that a government which doesn't care about its people is a government with no future.

MPs last week asked the government to allocate 1.2 billion Shillings for the running of the nodding disease treatment centres per year. However, Government is yet to commit itself to the funding.

In December last year, the Nodding disease treatment centre operated by Charity hope for humans closed due to funding shortfalls.

Established in 2012, Hope for Humans, the first comprehensive Care Center for sufferers of Nodding Syndrome had become a safe haven where children with nodding syndrome received medical care, rehabilitation, nutritious meals, special education, and personal hygiene support.

It provided specialized care, treatment and rehabilitation to more than 300 children, who were later reintegrated into the communities. But this ended last year when the centre's lone funder, Neurologist Dr Suzan Gazda from San Antonio, Texas, stopped her funding.

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