A 14 years old primary seven candidate Tony Odokonyero, who was suffering from the Nodding disease on Monday drowned when he was gripped by seizure attacks on his way to sit for his Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) in Arom Stream, Odek Sub County, Gulu district.
The headteacher of the school Mr Santo Okello, confirmed the incident and reported that the body was found after a long search was mounted when he failed to turn up for his first paper.
Aromo-wanglobo Primary School holds a total of 214 pupils suffering from the syndrome out of the 532 pupil population; and they are being treated at Odek Health Centre IV. The disease continues to inflict untold suffering in the sub-region.
“There is some slight improvement among the pupils but am worried of the performance of those who are sitting for their final exams,” Okello said.
Due to the mental retardation caused by the syndrome, the Ministry of Education has failed to formulate a special needs program to address the needs of affected children.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 9,000 children have been affected by the disease and over 400 have so far lost their lives as a result.
Meanwhile, at least three girls suffering from the disease have given birth, while two others are still pregnant in Kitgum District.
The girls, all below 18 years, were raped. Three are residents of Tumangu in Akwang sub-county, while two are from Okidi, in Amida sub-county. Of the three that gave birth, one underwent a caesarean procedure.
However, police in the district have faigned ignorance over the rape allegation, raising suspicion that their parents could have been bribed to keep the crimes under wraps.
Mr Richard Kilama, the District Secretary for Health and Education in Kitgum said that district authorities are investigating the matter and that both the parents and the communities in which the girls live have failed to disclose the identities of the men responsible for impregnating the girls.
A number of similar cases, where men sexually assault girls suffering from the syndrome, have been recorded in the region. Last month, a 45-year-old man was lynched by a mob in Pader District for allegedly raping a 14-year-old nodding syndrome victim. There are also pending defilement cases in Kitgum Magistrates Court.
Nodding disease in the region first came to light in 2009, but is believed to have started when the population was confined to the camps. The disease has has since been reported in Lamwo, Kitgum, Pader, Gulu, Lira, Moyo and Amuru districts. Although medical experts have made some slight progress in controlling seizures, there is no known cure for the syndrome, whose cause also remains mysterious.