By Francis Kagolo
The Government is to supply free food to children in northern Uganda particularly areas worst hit by nodding disease as one of the measures to curb the epidemic Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has announced.
He also declared mass treatment of river blindness in the entire region as the country awaits health experts to discover the cause and best treatment for nodding disease. The area is river blindness endemic.
“We are going to supply food because one of the problems in the area is lack of food and basic vitamins among children.We have so far set up three treatment centres. We want to increase them to at least 10 so that all children can be observed, given food and drugs.”” Mbabazi said. “
He revealed this on Wednesday during a meeting with a group of visiting US senators and representatives who came to Uganda courtesy of CARE, a global charity organization working in northern Uganda.
The meeting took place at this office in Kampala. The delegation, led by Helene Gayle, the chief executive of CARE USA, and Johnny Isakson, senator of Georgia, wanted to know efforts the Government was undertaking to develop the war-torn northern Uganda.
Mbabazi said, save for nodding disease which was posing new challenges, the region was on the right track to total recovery and development, thanks to the Peace Recovery and Development Programme (PRDP).
Nodding disease is believed to be a new type of disorder characterized by head-nodding episodes that consist of repetitive dropping forward of the head.
The disease has so far affected over 3,000 children, mainly boys between the ages of five and 15, with 170 reported dead.
Efforts by the health ministry and Centres for Disease Control (CDC) of the US to determine its cause have so far been futile. But health practitioners concur that the germ which causes river blindness also causes epilepsy in children.
Asked about the security status of the region following the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader Joseph Kony's over 20-year insurgency ,Mbabazi reiterated that initially Kony was funded by Khartoum (Sudan government).
However, since he was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Khartoum abandoned him and his group had reduced to a mere 200 combatants from thousands a decade ago.
Asked why Khartoum would support a rebel group against Uganda, Mbabazi disclosed that Sudan wanted to use Kony to destabilize the entire region.
“This was a proxy war we fought with Sudan,” he stated. “The original plan of Sudan was use Kony to destabilize the region. They wanted him to take power in CAR (Central African Republic) to use it (CAR) as a base to attack countries like Chad.”
Mbabazi, however, expressed optimism that “Kony will be captured sooner than later following a vigorous campaign to finish him spearheaded by the international community including the African Union.
When his guests asked about the current affairs in South Sudan particularly the constant attacks from Sudan, Mbabazi said Uganda was “disturbed.”
He listed the oil wells located in the South some Nubian communities occupying the entire stretch of Blue Nile that want independence from the north, occupied mainly by Arabs, as some of the factors causing tension between the two states.
He commended CARE for helping vulnerable Ugandans especially in the north get out of poverty.
During their five-day tour, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the US delegation is to engage various officials to find out how US funding to Uganda has contributed to poverty eradication over the years.