14 March 2012

Meanwhile, in Northern Uganda Families are Hit by Nodding Disease

A major story is developing about an elusive killer wrecking havoc on the lives of children in northern Uganda. It is not Joseph Kony.

Nodding disease is affecting thousands of children largely in the north of the country. The symptoms are characterized by the nodding of the head (hence the name), seizures, and stunted growth.

A recent report from the BBC:

More than 200 sick children turned up on Monday for treatment in the centres in the districts of Kitgum, Pader and Lamwo, Uganda's Commissioner for Health Services Dr Anthony Mbonye told the BBC.

Health workers cannot offer definitive treatment - until doctors find out what lies at the root of the disease - but, Dr Mbonye says, they have been trained to help improve the lives of children by managing the neurological symptoms.

Anti-epileptic drugs have been effective in treating nodding disease patients, according to the World Health Organisation.

Nodding syndrome causes children to spasm uncontrollably - and eventually to waste away and die.

The BBC's Ignatius Bahizi in Kampala says a local MP, Beatrice Anywar, has spearheaded a campaign to press the government to deal more effectively with the disease, which, he says, has caused huge anxieties in rural communities.

Uganda's health ministry has recorded 3,000 cases and almost 200 deaths since 2010.

As the final sentence points out, this is not a new problem. It has affected the region for over a year and has existed since the 1980's when it was discovered in Sudan.