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Bitter cassava to blame for children disability - expert

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A farmer displays mature cassava at a recent

A farmer displays mature cassava at a recent exhibition. Photo by Peter Aligo. 

By FELIX WAROM OKELLO & PATRICK OKABA

Posted  Friday, December 13  2013 at  12:06

In Summary

He advises the government to encourage farmers to begin planting sweet cassava to replace the traditional bitter cassava.

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West Nile- A medical expert has attributed disability among children in West Nile sub-region to excessive consumption of bitter cassava in the region.

The region relies on cassava as their main source of food. However, hunger that is hitting most parts of the region following a prolonged drought, has seen most families resort to eating immature and unprepared bitter cassava.

According to Dr Tito Beyeza, an orthopedic surgeon at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, 10 out of 40 children who undergo surgery at Nebbi Hospital have cyanide, a poisonous substance that is released by bitter cassava plants which is a serious health hazard.

Symptoms
He says some of the signs of cyanide poisoning are headache, dizziness, agitation, confusion, coma, and convulsions.

He adds that removing cyanide requires surgery which is expensive. “A surgery like this is usually done in Mulago at Shs800,000,” he says.

Dr Beyeza adds that bitter cassava requires proper processing– drying, soaking in water, rinsing or baking – to effectively reduce the poisonous substance.
He advises the government to encourage farmers to begin planting sweet cassava to replace the traditional bitter cassava.

The regional coordinator Uganda Society for Disabled Children, Mr Stephen Eguma, says many families are affected.

“It is an expensive disease to treat for our poor parents here. And they let the children just grow with the deformity and disability which affects the child’s future,” Mr Eguma says.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com