The mysterious killer disease known as head seizer or nodding disease is rapidly sweeping across Acholi sub-region, with thousands of children now believed to be affected. Officials are warning of a pandemonium and widespread deaths, which if not averted immediately, could easily, wipe out a whole generation. The disease which started at the height of life in the camps is now prevalent in villages and schools across the region.
For example, at Alune Primary School, 200 pupils out of 281 are suffering from the disease.
Mr Francis Odokonyero a primary five teacher in the school says that he is terrified and horrified by the magnitude of the problem.
“It makes our teaching very difficult and you find that a pupil collapses causing fear among the others and most of the time there is no concentration in class,” he said.
The school authorities have barred noise in class to avoid triggering the disease in those who suffer from nodding disease.
Many children in the region have to commute over 10km from their homes to school.Additionally, health centres which are short of drugs and staffs, are further 5kms journey from most home.
In Alune, 40 pupils have so far dropped out of school because of the disease and majority rarely survive beyond the age of 18.
Villagers have linked the cause of the disease to air pollution from bombs and other chemicals used during the war.
Mr Martin Kidega 45 of Lamit Tumangu village in Akwang sub-county has lost two of his daughters to the disease.
His younger son Ojok is still struggling for his life and his father believes he may die soon.
“I am not sure of the exact cause of the illness, but it could be linked to the bomb or spirit of many people killed during the war,” Kidega said.
“Am in terrible pain that my children are not in school and are dying, what future is my home?” he added.
In a neighbouring home, all of Sunday Kibwota’s fourteen children who have been diagnosed with the disease have dropped out of Alune primary school.
One of them Ms Susan Lawino 17 usually experiences attacks during her class activities.
Lawino says that she is determined to beat the disease and one day return to class once her condition normalizes.
“When I see my friends in school, I feel sad but I cannot do anything, but hopefully I will get back one day,” she said.
Lawino is one of the many children who travels several miles alone to get medication from Pajimo health center III because her parents are old.
Her mother, Ms Terijina Auma 79, is a very unhappy woman in the village. She said “my son (writer), if you could make a miracle, I would ask that my children’s conditions normalise and they can live healthy long lives.”
She says that she has tried every kind of traditional medicine to try help the situation, all in vain.
In almost all the homes visited in the area by Acholi Times, at least two to seven children are suffering from the disease.
Akwang has a population of 17,749 according to 2002 census and 264 children have been diagnosed with the disease in Akwang and 67 in Lamit Tumangu village alone.
The LC3 chairman of Akwang sub-county Mr Peter Oola said that “many families are counting their days to death and the next generation of Acholi might be no more.”
Health officials have distributed medicines at village levels to try to help the sick while waiting for test results from the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta USA.
The disease is common in Kitgum in Amida and Akwang sub-counties, Lamwo and Pader districts. Other areas that have reported cases include Gulu, Amuru, Oyam and West Nile.
Nodding disease is a form of head seizer in children whose symptoms include the nodding of the head, stunted growth and kills effected victims before the age of 18.
Suspicion and anxiety?
This is a form of ‘genocide’ that the world should not turn a blind eye to, Mr Okuna Fred a father of six children, but two affected said.
“Why are they saying its caused by flies (Ajongamiya); we are suffering and dying in silence, this is how government is trying to hide the cause and magnitude of the problem, we have been deliberately harmed,” Okuna said.
A team from the Centre for disease control in Atlanta, USA with World Health organization and Ministry of health have completed a preliminary investigation on the disease.
Health officials in Kitgum district are distributing medication for treating fits to suppress the symptoms of the disease.
The Medical Superintendent of Kitgum district hospital Dr Alex Layoo said they were waiting for the report of the investigation from the US.
“Right now we cannot comment much but what I know is that we are treating them temporarily through home base care system,” Layoo said. By A Web design Company
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