Gov’t Succeeds In Fighting Nodding Disease

visit sans-serif; color: #222222;”>Addressing journalists in Kampala, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the minister of Health said that after launching a Shs 3bn integrated response plan to manage and coordinate all interventions, the number of cases has reduced.

“In the plan, the ministry was mandated to ensure appropriate treatment and management of cases, provide psychosocial support to children and caretakers, provide transport for patients, enhance nutrition, strengthen surveillance and conduct research into the epidemic,” Rugunda explained.

The Minister added that government has recorded success in regard to the roles put in place.

“We were able to control the disease, convulsions, send back children to school and also be able to help their parents in the daily routine which is a progress as communities are able to enjoy normal lives.”

According to Rugunda, management of the nodding syndrome mainly focused on control of convulsions and improvement of nutrition which he said has been achieved through constant supply of anticonvulsants and has had an impact on children with the syndrome.


“We intensified surveillance activities in all affected districts and we trained 124 officers to track and monitor all patients. The team is beefed up with the district and national surveillance officers and since the opening of treatment centres in 2012, no new cases of the syndrome have been registered,” Rugunda noted.

The Minister further observed that with support from partners including the World Health Organisation and the Carter Centre, they continue to carry out mass drug administration in the affected areas which has improved treatment coverage from 33% in 2011 to 60 and 90 %in Kitgum and Gulu districts, respectively.

Beliefs and myths about the Nodding syndrome

According to officials from the ministry of Health, affected people believe that the nodding syndrome is caused by evil spirits of the dead who were not buried, chemical effects of the prolonged LRA war and crimes committed against neighbouring communities.

“Many people don’t want to associate with the affected because they believe that if you do, then spirits may attack you too. It’s also widely believed that the syndrome doesn’t respond to traditional and cultural interventions but rather modern medicine,” explained officials from the Health ministry.

The nodding syndrome was first reported in the northern districts of Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader in 2009 characterised by nodding of the head, mental retardation and stunned growth.

By 2009, a total of 3000 cases had been recorded in the 3 districts but by 2011, other cases of the syndrome had been cited in Lira, Gulu and Oyam.

According to ministry of Health officials, the cases which were subsequently categorised as either nodding syndrome or epilepsy have been registered and treated.

“To date, 3320 and 5185 cases of nodding syndrome and epilepsy respectively have been registered and treated whereas only 11 deaths have been registered throughout this period.”

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