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Nodding Syndrome: Parliament Pushes for Concrete Solutions

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Nodding syndrome: Deputy Speaker directs on concrete action
PHOTO — Parliament of Uganda Portal


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On March 5th, 2024, the Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, issued a directive to the Government Chief Whip to organize a multi-sectoral meeting involving key stakeholders to address nodding syndrome comprehensively. This directive was made during a parliamentary session, with a stipulated timeframe of one month for the stakeholders to report back to Parliament.

The identified stakeholders include the Ministry of Health, Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, the Acholi Parliamentary Group, and other leaders from the affected regions. The aim of this meeting is to discuss the nodding syndrome issue extensively and propose actionable solutions.

This directive follows a plea from legislators during the parliamentary session for the reinstatement of rehabilitation centers in Northern Uganda to manage cases of nodding syndrome effectively. According to a report from the Committee on Health, rehabilitation centers in Omoro and Kitgum districts had been closed due to lack of funding from the government and diminishing support from donors.

Hon. Catherine Lamwaka, the Omoro District Woman Representative, highlighted a presidential directive to the Ministry of Health regarding the takeover of these facilities, which, as she noted, has not been implemented. She emphasized the importance of including funding for these centers in the upcoming budget to ensure their reopening and the establishment of health centers.

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The lack of funding for rehabilitation centers has left affected children without proper care and support. Hon. Peter Okot noted that government support for these centers had ceased since 2018, leading to inadequate resources to cater to the needs of children suffering from nodding syndrome.

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During the parliamentary session, legislators emphasized the urgent need for action, urging the government to reopen and support rehabilitation centers while also providing assistance to affected families. Recommendations were made to integrate nodding syndrome services into existing health facilities if standalone centers faced funding challenges.

Additionally, there were calls for the Ministry of Health to provide updates on research progress regarding nodding syndrome. The committee report recommended continuous scientific research to determine the cause of the syndrome and develop preventive and curative measures.

Hon. Margaret Muhanga, the State Minister for Health (Primary Healthcare), committed to following up on the presidential directive to establish rehabilitation centers for nodding syndrome management. She mentioned the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development’s recommendation for home-based treatment, emphasizing the importance of parental care for affected children.

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