Nodding Disease Crisis: 2,000 New Cases Reported


unhealthy for sale geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 115%;”>The fast spreading disease has ravaged the North, advice sweeping districts of Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader like wildfire.

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Ondoa says the Ministry has opened up the three screening and treatment centres in the three affected districts at Kitgum General Hospital; Atanga Health Centre III and Palabek Kal Health Centre III to control the disease that is spiraling out of control.

The centres were opened up after a thorough training of 99 health workers to manage the patients and the official commissioning of the centres will be held next week.

“By yesterday evening, Atanga Health Centre III in Pader had recorded the highest number of cases registering 437 patients. All the cases were screened and diagnosed with the Nodding Syndrome,” says Ondoa.

“A total of 38 patients have been admitted. This centre, currently receiving the largest number of ill children, is being managed by a team of 15 health workers who are directly paid by the Ministry of Health under the Emergency Response Plan funding. Our surveillance reports indicate that Pader is the worst hit district with about 1,700 cases,” she further shocked journalists in Kampala.

Kitgum General Hospital had by close of yesterday recorded 40 patients and admitted five severe cases while Palabek Kal Health Centre III had registered only nine cases with no admissions.

The spread of the disease could unsettle the public considering that Ministry of Finance has released a paltry Shs1.1b out of the sh3.8b needed for implementation of activities under the first phase of the Response Plan.

“This money is currently being used for research, surveillance, case management and social mobilisation among others. A further sh2.7b has been promised by the Ministry of Finance and will soon be released,” says Ondoa.

Nevertheless, Ondoa notes the Ministry will continue to screen all the patients and investigate them – case by case. These patients will in addition receive the complete treatment as prescribed in the revised medical kit.

“Outreach programmes from Lamwo and Ktigum screening centres begin tomorrow Friday March 16, 2012. With this programme, health workers will be facilitated to reach out to the patients and treat them from their communities,” she notes.

“The severely ill cases will be referred to the screening and treatment centres for further investigations. This will help to increase coverage of the services as some patients cannot reach the treatment facilities.”


At the Mulago National Referral Hospital treatment centre, all the 25 admitted patients are stable, according to the Minister. The patients were rushed to the medical facility by MP Beatrice Anywar.

President Yoweri Museveni and FDC leader Col. Kizza Besigye have since paid a visit to the wards where they are being treated.

One patient was diagnosed with a brain tumour (not related to Nodding Syndrome) and immediately operated on in the Neural section. A total of 22 patients were diagnosed with the Nodding Syndrome while two were found to have epilepsy.

Ondoa says currently, 12 patients are stable and ready to be discharged while 10 are stable but still need to undergo rehabilitation.

She notes: “These patients have received both psychological and occupational therapy including different kinds of rehabilitations.”

“We have also conducted various investigations on these patients. These include blood work up, scans for the brain, heart and abdomen using CT- scans, MRI and Electro Encephalogram,” confirms the Minister.

Preliminary results show that Nodding Syndrome is a multitude of problems which include medical, nutritional, psychiatric, behavioral and cognitive disorders.

Ondoa is optimistic that the Ministry’s cooperation with the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organisation (WHO), public universities and other partners to undertake research on the cause of the Nodding Syndrome will save the situation.

“So far, we have commissioned an Environment Ecological Study in Pader, the worst hit district,” she notes.

The Health Ministry is under scrutiny as it combats the Nodding syndrome. Ugandans have expressed shock at how government has dragged its feet in releasing enough funds to combat the disease.


Meanwhile, in a related development, Ondoa clarifies that the country currently has adequate stock of TB drugs to cater for patients for the next three months.

“Procurement process is on-going for purchase of more medicines for the next six months under the Government of Uganda funding. The first consignment of TB drugs under the Global Fund arrangement will arrive in the country in September.

There have been widely circulating reports from different sections of the public that there is a shortage of TB drugs in the country.

“Currently, at the NMS, we have adequate amounts of TB first line drugs and the drugs are being distributed to health facilities. We have in addition procured the second Line of TB drugs. I wish to inform you that this is the first time that the country is procuring these kinds of drugs. The second line of treatment is given to patients who are resistant to the first line (MDR),” she affirms.


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