A new report on the nodding syndrome – a condition that has so far killed more than 500 children and affected nearly 3,000 in Acholi sub-region – is a positive development that should be given due attention and further investigation. Doctors from Gulu University, who conducted the study last June have – after carrying out 10 major studies into the syndrome – linked the condition to excessive acid in the bodies.
The lead researcher, Dr David Kitara Lagoro, says their study found that the environment where the nodding children lived, such as the Internally Displaced Peoples camps that were set up at the height of the Lords Resistance Army rebellion, had been contaminated.
While this particular research did not delve into what exactly caused the disease – precisely because the goal of the researchers was to find healing approaches, it has discovered some vital clues such as why the nodding and seizure increases even during the course of medication and how the seizures can be reduced, especially with sustained special diets and drugs.
Although the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were not part of this privately-sponsored research, the findings should nevertheless provide key points for them and other organisations doing research on nodding syndrome to explore further. WHO, for instance, is reported to have led a phase one investigation into the syndrome last year but were financially constrained.
The Health ministry has also indicated that the government has allocated some money for research into possible causes of nodding syndrome, a process scheduled to start this year. Whereas the government’s intention to investigate the cause of the disease is positive, this initiative should be well planned and implemented in a timely manner. Since the nodding syndrome came to the limelight around 2009, the government response has been largely lackluster, with regular announcements of “comprehensive action plans to tackle the disease” but little action.