Many pupils in Acholi sub-region have dropped out of school due to the nodding disease syndrome which is tormenting children in the region.
According to leaders of districts in Acholi sub-region, many children suffering from the nodding disease syndrome are unable to go to school while some parents have stopped their children from going to school, fearing that they could contract the illness.
The Pader District Education Officer, Mr Charles Okidi Obole, says the most affected schools are those in Atanga, Lagut, Awer and Angagula sub-counties.
Mr Alfred Akena, the Pader LC5 chairperson, who is also the chairperson of the district’s nodding disease task force, says most of the children suffering from the disease are of school-going age.
“The future of our children is uncertain. Parents have decided to keep their children in their homes for fear that their children might contract the diseases,” Mr Akena says.
He adds that 1,700 children in the district have been affected by the nodding syndrome.
According to Pader education officials, Aruu Primary School which had 200 pupils in the first term, currently has only 95.
The Kitgum District Education Officer, Mr Celest Lamakio Odonga, says there should be mass sensitisation among the teachers about the disease so that when children experience nodding seizure while at school, the teachers can administer first aid to them.
“Due to lack of skills in giving first aid to such children, parents opt to keep their children at home with close supervision. Some teachers also distance themselves when children are attacked thinking that the disease is contagious,” Mr Odonga says.
He adds that by the end of last term, more than 200 pupils in Layam, Akwanga and Amida sub-counties were affected by the nodding disease syndrome.
The National Coordinator for the Nodding Disease Syndrome, Dr Bernard Opar, says the Ministry of Health will soon start sensitising teachers on how to assist children when they experience nodding seizure.
Voting on the motion to declare areas affected by the nodding disease syndrome in Acholi sub-region a humanitarian emergency area was yesterday deferred for the second time after government called for dialogue with the affected stakeholders.
The same motion was last week deferred when Parliament failed to realise quorum after scores of NRM MPs walked out of Parliament before voting.
Having debated for about two hours and failing to reach a compromise on the matter, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi moved that an impromptu meeting be called between the movers of the motion and him to come to a consensus, a position Parliament adopted yesterday.
Legislators Alice Alaso, (Serere Woman), Chris Baryomunsi, (Kinkizi East), Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum Woman) and Gerald Karuhanga (Youth, Western) would meet with the prime minister after which a final position would be communicated to the House this Thursday (tomorrow).
Mr Mbabazi had earlier resisted calls by some MPs, especially from the opposition who wanted Parliament to vote on the matter by show of hands.
He argued that it was unconstitutional for Parliament to pass a motion that has financial implications without the Executive’s input. But realising that government might lose to the opposition, he called for dialogue.
Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu said the matter did not have any financial implications but only required government to look for more money other than the Shs15 billion they said was already earmarked for the affected districts.
But Mr Mbabazi said: “I suggest that we stand over the matter and get together with the movers of the motion, discuss it and agree on a final position to be communicated to you.”
The deputy speaker, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, who presided over yesterday’s session and also hails from the affected sub- region, gave the parties until Thursday to meet.
“The debate shows that Parliament is serious about the debate on nodding disease so that we resolve it without acrimony,” Mr Oulanyah said.
Ms Alaso last week moved the motion to declare some areas disaster areas and at least 125 MPs are needed to realise the quorum.
The prayers of the motion were that government declares the area disaster-striken, release and make public the Centers for Disease Control report, and that the Social Services Committee of Parliament takes charge and makes quarterly reports to the House among others.
Some NRM MPs, following an earlier NRM caucus meeting, switched positions when they demanded to understand the implications of declaring the affected areas humanitarian emergency areas.
Opposition MPs from Acholi want the motion declaring their sub-region a humanitarian disaster area finalised today and voted on by show of hands.
However, according to today’s order paper, prepared yesterday, the motion continues and voting could take place if the House realises the quorum. The motion was not concluded last week because of lack of quorum after scores of NRM MPs walked out of Parliament before voting.
At least 125 MPs are needed to realise the quorum. MPs Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum Woman, FDC) and Gilbert Oulanyah (Kilak, Indep.) yesterday accused Acholi MPs from NRM and some members of Cabinet from the same region of sabotaging the move.
The duo named Minister of Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem, MPs Amos Okot (Agago, NRM) and Lowila Oketayot (Pader, NRM) as those who vacated the House. “We saw our colleagues on the NRM side weren’t comfortable to accept that we declare our area a disaster and that is very unfortunate. Probably they didn’t want to been as supporting it,” Ms Anywar said. She added that voting should be done by show of hands so that everyone sees which Acholi does not support their electorate.
Mr Oryem was not available for comment but Ms Otekayot said the new team of MPs from Acholi has been more vibrant in caring for their people than Ms Anywar whom she said is playing to the gallery. “I care more for the nodding disease patients than her because the problem was there years ago when she was in Parliament. She is playing on our sweat because when we came to Parliament we raised the issues with government, where was she all along?” Ms Otekayot said.
Mr Okot told this newspaper that he had rushed to attend a budget workshop when he left the House. “I shouldn’t be judged like that because I can’t be influenced. It’s the work of the new MPs that Ms Anywar has hijacked and now is blaming us- which isn’t fair,” Mr Okot said.
The prayers of the motion were that government declares the area a disaster, release and make public the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) report, and that the social services committee of Parliament takes charge and reports to the House quarterly among others.
According to Mr Oulanyah, until yesterday morning when he left his village, the number of affected children was 7,200 compared to 5,000 declared by World Health Organisation declared almost a week ago.
The syndrome has been pronounced in Pader, Kitgum, Lamwo, Amuru and Agago districts.
Health ministry officials have initially said CDC, based in Atlanta, released partial results from their three-year study of the disease, associating the syndrome with river blindness which is transmitted by bites of the black river fly.