Parents serve court penalty after Nodding children sued them for neglect

Two children infected by the nodding disease have entered the record books for dragging their parents to court for neglect. 

Ms Janet Amito 12 and Mr Isaac Okema 10, both children to Ms Amony Betty and Joel Kilama of Angagura village in Aruu County, Pader district allege that they were abandoned by their parents at Atanga treatment center early this year because they had become a burden to them as a result of the nodding syndrome. 

“When my brother developed the nodding symptom, my mother refused to care for us fearing that her unborn baby would also catch the disease,” Anena said. 

“She took us to Atanga hospital after consuming our food supplements. She then left us lonely and found her new home, but I felt sad and started washing the body of my brother and feeding him. I cannot reconcile with her since she is not ready to reform,” she added. 

Arach and Kilama were found guilty and are serving a community service by slashing grass at Angagura health center II . The ruling was delivered by Pader Magistrate court on October 5th. 

Amito and Okema have both spent nearly a year at the treatment center without any assistance from their mother. 

However, Arach who came to the hospital on Wednesday to receive medical services for chest pains said that the charges and subsequent ruling were malicious and trumped-up. 

She insisted that her children mistook her actions as "running away", but she only went to seek treatment from a traditional healer for a wound she had obtained on cassava farm. 

Still adamant, Arach said her children should continue to stay at the treatment center until they were cured of their nodding syndrome. 

"It’s a lie. They are in the ward because of my efforts. It was difficult to get food in the hospital and I left home to get cassava" said Arach "In the process, my leg got injured and swollen that I could not walk for two months. So they mistook it for neglect,” Arach said. “They are still my children." 

However, as she defended herself, Arach soon fell victim to verbal attacks from her fellow women at the hospital. 

“You are silly! These are your children and no one will care for your blood,” Santorina Akidi said as other patients stood by with wrinkles of anger in their faces watching. 

Ms Arach who was angered by the court ruling to serve community service at Angagura health center II, insisted that the punishment would not change her attitude towards her children. 

“The government must cure them, for me to take them back home” she added.  

Meanwhile her daughter said Arach was pretending to love them. 

"I made sure they were arrested. I hate my mother because she does not want us anymore, let her go away," said Amito, now a care taker of her four years sick brother. 

She said that even if she has been attacked by the syndrome, it was still her duty to care for and Okema, her brother.

 

Since March this year, the health center has diagnosed 1706 and admitted 88 nodding children.  It has also diagonised 1709 epileptic patients. 

Ms Nancy Nicole Nyeko, a comprehensive Nurse working at the nodding ward and also the acting head of Atanga health center said that Arach was only frustrated because she had lost any hope of her children getting any better. 

She said that Pader district leadership had pledged to look for an orphanage to cater for the children but since October nothing had materialized. 

They are surviving on hospital food and supplements for their nodding and seizures. 

In September this year 36 bags of food supplement (maize Flour) went missing from the treatment center. Although the IGG officials carried out an investigation, no one was arrested in connection to the theft. 

"This is detrimental to the lives of children who need food more, like Okema and Amito who are at God's mercy in their survival or should the stock run down," Nyeko said. 

Health workers in Pader have embarked on community outreach programs to sensitize parents on their roles in responding to the disease including the provision of nutritious foods, adherence to drugs and personal hygiene of their sick children. 

Currently medical workers are using Valporate drugs to control nodding disease with additional food supplements to yield nutrition levels. 

Since it was identified in 2003, over 1000 children affected by the disease in Acholi sub-region have died from the syndrome. 

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