Minister of Health Downplays Number of Victims Affected by Nodding Disease
The Minister of Health Christine Ondoa recently downplayed the number of people affected by the nodding disease by “revealing” that the syndrome has so far left 3094 innocent lives victimized and 173 dead. Ondoa said that the syndrome which is now soaring in places like Lira district and Oyam County, can be handled by the government.
Although the situation is still pathetic with some parents losing hope and returning the medicine to the health centers after registering no success, the government is capable of handling the situation,” Ondoa said.
Ondoa was officially opening an international conference on nodding syndrome last week at Sheraton Hotel Kampala which concluded on Thursday in Kampala. Ondoa highlighted some of the new statistics indicating that in Pader District 104 are infected with 66 dead, Kitugum 1098 have the disease and 98 have succumbed to it, while in Lamwo 308 infected and 9 dead.
International experts on nodding disease joined local medical professionals to share experience and discuss the mysterious disease that continues to ravage northern Uganda.
Experts from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization (WHO), UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and those from affected countries like Liberia, Tanzania, South Sudan all convened at Sheraton to share experiences and forge a way forward to curb the spiraling epidemic.
World Health Organization officials in Uganda said that the conference was attended by about 120 scientists from across the world. Anthony Mbonye, of Uganda’s Ministry of Health, said the conference gave a platform for scientists to share knowledge about the disease.
Scientists are working to find the cause of the disease, which is stretching health care capacities and testing the patience of a community looking for answers as to why the region is suffering only a few years after the war subdued, why it’s concentrated in certain communities, and whether it is contagious.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been investigating nodding syndrome at the request of the Ugandan government, has ruled out 36 possible causes since 2009 and is carrying out a clinical trial for potential treatments.
When asked whether these experts could find a remedy Ondoa said that, “I am optimistic that we shall come up with a comprehensive plan not necessarily the medicine but ways of reducing the rate of spread of the disease. People who are gathered here are renowned researchers and some have handled the syndrome before, so I think very many questions will be answered”.
Nodding disease is a neurological disease that primarily affects children between ages of 5 to 15 years causing progressive cognitive dysfunction, mental retardation neurological deterioration and a characteristic nodding of the head, although in some parts of northern Uganda it is also affecting adults.