Health Minister grilled over Nodding disease

Minister Sarah Opendi

Legislators on the Budget Committee have tasked the Ministry of Health to explain the persistent cases of the Nodding Syndrome despite various government interventions.

The disease was initially discovered among children in Kitgum and Pader districts and later in other five districts in northern Uganda.

The MPs were responding to a status report about the Nodding Syndrome in Northern Uganda presented to the Committee by the Minister of State for Health, Hon. Sarah Opendi.

Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi (DP, Butambala) said the Ministry was given supplementary funding to contain the disease but it didn’t absorb the money.

“You have failed to confront the issue with all the funding provided which is absurd because it is a sign that the Ministry is not treating the matter with urgency,” he added.

Hon. Richard Okoth Othieno (NRM, West Budama North) said that parents neglected sick children fearing that the disease might be infectious.

“This is an indication that parents of these children and other people are not well educated about the disease; the Ministry should update the public and sensitize them on what they are doing and what the disease is about,” he added.

Hon. Jane Pacuto Avur (NRM, Pakwach district) said that the Ministry should take steps to mitigate the issue of stigma by sensitizing the public.

“If the districts are not doing enough to utilise the money, what are you as the supervising body doing?” she inquired.

Minister Opendi said that scientific research suggests that the Nodding Syndrome might be an autoimmune disease linked to the black fly, which carries the disease causing worm.

She said the disease has been contained and that, even with challenges that need to be addressed, the Ministry has teams on the ground to provide treatment.

“There are cases of social stigma, with parents abandoning children suffering from the disease yet these children need attention and proper feeding to heal,” said Hon. Opendi adding that “The money we receive is for medication and treatment but not to support the teams on the ground to monitor the disease.”

Opendi noted that the Ministry sends money for the Nodding Syndrome specifically to the districts to do follow up.

The Minister said that the districts are supposed to monitor what is going on and “must take responsibility for monitoring the disease on the ground; we cannot take blame for the local governments failing to do their work”.

She added that the Ministry is doing its part in providing medical attention and that recovery from the disease is possible given proper attention.

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