In December, 2017, we wrote an editorial highlighting the plight of children suffering from nodding syndrome in northern Ugandan as efforts to give them proper care seemed to be waning. It followed reports that five children with nodding syndrome had drowned on separate occasions in Odek Sub-county, Omoro District after developing seizures at water points.
Barely two months later, Daily Monitor reported last Friday that two more nodding children – Denis Olara, 17, and Agness Ajok, 15 – died in Pader District. As we earlier pointed out, area leaders are concerned about the children after the care centre in Odek Sub-county, Omoro District was closed due to shortage of funds. As a result, at least 29 children suffering from nodding syndrome were sent home.
The care centre has played a key role in the care of the sick children, offering great relief through medical and personal care, special schooling and nutritious meals since 2012.
Mr Caesar Okot, the programme manager of Hope for Humans, the NGO which has been running the centre, last week told members of the Omoro District Nodding Syndrome Task Force that the children died after relapsing due to poor medical care, nutrition and negligence.
Mr Okot also pointed out that these children are more vulnerable at home due to inadequate care. While there are outreach programmes to check on the children, the core challenge of poor nutrition and lack of medication needs to be addressed urgently.
The situation is more precarious because these children come from impoverished communities and as Omoro District chairperson Douglas Peter Okello said, the district has no capacity to fund operations of the centre. He said the district had earlier requested Shs500 million supplementary budget from the Health ministry to help run the centre but they have not received a response. He said the government has also failed to honour its promise of supplying nodding syndrome affected households with food.
Leaders of the affected communities are now desperately appealing for the intervention of well-wishers to ensure the centre is reopened to provide care. As more deaths are recorded, what is the government’s plan for these children?
We repeat the appeal we made to government two months ago after Ms Grace Kwiyocwiny, the State minister for Northern Uganda, visited the centre and said the government would partner with the district and other stakeholders to ensure the centre is supported. Such assurances must be followed by immediate action.
Our view: We repeat the appeal we made to government two months ago after Ms Grace Kwiyocwiny, the State minister for Northern Uganda, visited the centre and said the government would partner with the district and other stakeholders to ensure the centre is supported. Such assurances must be followed by immediate action.