Nodding Disease Attacks 3,000 Kids – Health Minister


find geneva; font-size: small;”>The Plan provides an integrated response to the disease through a coordinated mechanism that will ultimately identify the cause and control of the disease syndrome to the level where it is no longer of public health importance.

page geneva;”>The initiative comes after serious public outcry that government was not taking adequate steps in controlling the spread of the disease in Pader, order Kitgum and neighbouring districts.

According to Health Minister Christine Ondoa, the nodding disease is characterized by head nodding, mental retardation and stunted growth.

It was first reported to the Ministry of Health by Kitgum District Health Office in August 2009.

“Currently, over 3000 children in the northern districts have been affected by the disease,” Ondoa says, adding, “this is not a new disease since similar cases were also reported in Tanzania and Southern Sudan.”

Since 2009, the Ministry of Health has been undertaking a number of measures to control its spread.

Among these is the provision of supportive treatment to the children, training of health workers, massive sensitization and conducting research on the cause and control of the disease.

Initial studies conducted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) did not indicate any conclusive cause of the disease. However, the new response plan will see an extensive research programme about the cause and spread of the diseases. This research programme will be undertaken by the Ministry of Health, CDC, universities in Uganda and other Health Development Partners.


Initial activation funding has been mobilised from the Ministry of Health budget. The National Taskforce on Epidemic Preparedness and Response chaired by the Ministry of Health is currently in the process of mobilising resources from its partners. The Ministry will in addition submit a Supplementary Budget request to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to support the Response Plan.

“The Response Plan that has also been shared with the Acholi Parliamentary Group, provides for the procurement and distribution of medicines and other supplies to affected communities. The medicines will be dispersed to hospitals and health centres that are easily accessible to the affected communities,” Ondo notes.

The Ministry will in addition set up screening and treatment centres in affected districts.

“These centres will be beefed up with supplementary staff consisting of at least a psychiatric clinical officer, psychiatric nurse, nutritionist and counsellor. The designated centres will be opened by end of February,” she clarifies.

These are; Padibe Health centre IV for Lamwo district, Kitgum Hospital for Kitgum while Pajule Health Centre IV will cater for Padre District. These centres will be supported by monthly outreach programs to the affected communities.


Ondoa says Psychiatry experts shall also be engaged from Mulago and Butabika National Referral Hospitals, as well as other regional hospitals, to train the screening teams at the designated centres.

The Implementation of the Response Plan will be multi-sectoral involving various stakeholders at district and central level. These include; Ministries of; Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Gender and Labour, Local Government, Education and Sports and Office of the Prime Minister as well as Universities and Research Institutions.

The Ministry of Health has so far sent a request to the Office of the Prime Minister to supply emergency nutritional supplements to the designated screening and treatment centres, according to Ondoa.

“The Ministry is working closely with the affected local governments and political leadership to mobilise communities to seek medical assistance from the designated screening centres. Districts have also been requested to incorporate the activities into their district plans and budgets,” she adds.

The Ministry of health is in addition working with a number of Development Partners to implement this plan.

These include World health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control (CDC), UNICEF, USAID and MF-Spain.

She appeals to the Members of Parliament and district leaders from the Acoli sub-region to work with the Ministry of Health to ensure proper coordination and implementation of the Response Plan.

“I appeal to affected communities to stay calm as we find a lasting solution to this problem. The Ministry of Health informs the public that it is doing everything in its control to manage the spread of the disease in northern Uganda. I assure the public that we continue our commitment to the prevention and fighting of disease throughout Uganda,” she concludes.


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