By: Joyce Babirye

The Nodding Disease Syndrome has affected thousands of children in districts across Northern Uganda since 2003 when the first case was registered in Kitgum District. Approximately 1,700 children are currently reported to be suffering from the nodding disease syndrome in northern Uganda sub region with the most affected Districts being Pader, Amuru, Kitgum, Lamwo, Gulu and Nwoya.

Hon. Minister of state for Karamoja Affairs Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny addressing leaders about nodding disease

The State Minister for Northern Uganda Honorable Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny noted that earlier interventions to address this problem had not completely eliminated the nodding disease. This has affected household incomes because families with nodding disease victims cannot concentrate on development activities.

Government has resolved to review the status and management of children with nodding disease syndrome in order to come up with a lasting solution. This is going to be done through research to find out the exact number of people affected, in which areas they live and the extent the disease has impacted the lives of the families in the region. This research is going to be carried out by CTI Africa. The Chief of operations of CTI Africa Mr. Gadi Yerushalmi said that they were going to conduct ethnographic and quantitative research that will give accurate results that will be used for proper planning.

“This research will take about two weeks in all affected districts. This will help us  know the extent of this problem. Then we will present the findings to cabinet and all the necessary authorities to develop a strategy to eliminate nodding disease syndrome once and for all.” said Hon. Grace Kwiyucwiny. This was during a meeting the Minister held with leaders from districts in Northern Uganda that comprised of Resident District Commissioners, Chief Administrative officers, Town Clerks and District Chairpersons in Gulu University Hall on Monday 28th December, 2022.

A section of RDCs CAO, Town Clerks and other leaders who participated in the meeting at Gulu University

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics poverty index report, 68% of households in Acholi sub region are living below the poverty line.  Pader Resident District Commissioner, Milton Odong informed the meeting that the number of people affected is too high.  He requested the Minister to lobby government to establish Nodding disease Treatment Centres in all the districts in the north. The Centre in Pader cannot contain the huge numbers of patients. This has forced parents and guardians of the victims to stay home and take care for them or tie them up on ropes to prevent them from hurting themselves when the caretakers go out to work in the gardens. “This problem has escalated poverty levels in this area. If nothing is promptly done to increase the number of treatment facilities, the scourge will only increase and cripple development further” he said.

CTI’s CEO Dr. Gadi Jerusalem during a meeting of leaders about Nodding Disease in Gulu

Kitgum District Health Officer Doctor Henry Okello attributed the persistent cases of nodding disease syndrome to poor nutrition of the victims and high poverty levels in the region. “People must change their dietary behavior by eating a balanced diet. Most of the affected children are malnourished he said.”