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Nodding Disease: Felling the Acholi "Trees" by drying the foliage

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Added 27th February 2018 09:55 AM

The progression of the nodding disease, its dehumanising impact on communities, families, and victims, and government's strategic neglect of the sufferings is disturbing and inhuman.

Nodding Disease: Felling the Acholi "Trees" by drying the foliage

Morris Komakech

The progression of the nodding disease, its dehumanising impact on communities, families, and victims, and government's strategic neglect of the sufferings is disturbing and inhuman.

By Morris Komakech

Few days ago, I posted a request on my Facebook wall to Acholi MPs, asking them to update us on the state of the nodding disease in the region. Not one MP responded, except for their rather pesky apologists.

Our politicians are delicate, they tend to evade accountability and paradoxically object to critics vehemently over under performance. However, the law of evolution is clear - when the birds learn to fly without stopping, the hunter must also learn to shoot without missing. We have to develop resilience to pursue them relentlessly, respectfully.

The progression of the nodding disease, its dehumanising impact on communities, families, and victims, and government's strategic neglect of the sufferings is disturbing and inhuman. Allowing this disease to feed unfettered on our children, is really felling the Acholi trees by drying out its foliage first.

Last week, a local TV programme unveiled the extent of the nodding disease in Acholi region. This situation brought a chilling sense of national shame to Parliament and Ministry of health. This week, a reactionary Acholi Parliamentary Group woke up and decided to visit these children.

The documentary exposed a lot of neglect and mobilised national support for these children. Towards the end of the documentary, one sees a dramatic Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanya, demonstrating a show of empathy. He even tried to squeeze a tear from one eye, which refused to come!

Parliament, which Oulanyah presides over, is the venue where national and supplemental budgets, and major policies are processed - debated, and passed.

The cost of caring for these children could never be too high for a national priority given the rampant corruption and extravagance on politics and public administration.

In the documentary, you could see that nearly all the children lived in squalid conditions of abject poverty. The poor housing, lack of food, poor hygiene, untamed environment, coupled with a demanding parental care or adult supervision needed for the safety of these children all determined mortality. Once these conditions were reversed, such that the children were provided with optimal care - medicine, food, adequate sleep, and clean environment, the children demonstrated tenacity and resilience towards recovery.

I doubt that the most the Deputy Speaker of Parliament can do to bring a spotlight on the nodding disease just wailing, or blaming doctors. The MPs could do better advocacy, lobbying, and pressuring the government and international development partners to lend a hand against a human catastrophe. This disease is a matter of global health. Without funds for medicine, care facility, and qualified staff, doctors are of little use.

Unfortunately, even UNICEF, World Vision, Plan, Caritas and all the big name children humanitarian organizations have looked the other way.

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