A boy with nodding disease being attended to. Courtesy photo.

Are children of northern Uganda with nodding disease paying the price of war?

(Last Updated On: 22 May 2021)

By James William Mugeni

Kampala – 21, May 2019: In desperate attempt to find cure for children in Northern Uganda, one is tempted to think of a biological weapon. Some methods are so crude.

Maybe, let us look at how God himself demoralized the Egyptians who had kept the Israelites captive.

The Bible has it that God had to use about 10 methods which included turning sticks into snakes, filling the Nile with frogs, turning the Nile into blood, sending a plague that afflicted Egyptians, yet they kept on holding to the Israelites.

One of the most and painful weapons that made Egypt to give up and release Israelites was when God used the decisive weapon of striking dead a member of every Egyptian household dead in one night. This demoralized the Egyptians who had taken in many blows and could not stand and take in more.

God selectively used a weapon that just killed the first born in every Egyptian family and this settled his scores with Egyptians. What about us humans who by nature have in us transferred evil as men? The Second World War was decisively won with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan whose effect still stands and makes the Japanese renounce war.

I am tempted to think that 20 years of fighting a relentless army, an army that was deeply rooted in its local people, an army that used children to fill its ranks perhaps a decisive weapon was used. Cutting off the supply line of children by using a substance that became a game changer is possible.

Unless someone authoritatively comes out with a scientific method and disapprove my assertions with a researched evidence, that is my take on the nodding disease. And regard my assertion as a question leading to serious investigations, why nodding disease in what would be productive children, who would otherwise fill in for a generation fight. I know people have done research about this nodding disease, but nobody has come out with results, and results can continue being elusive if doctored, if researchers are biased or are fraudsters.

As a clinical officer with knowledge in medicine advancing a differential that perhaps a war weapon specific to stop this war was used. If presented in a grand round could score me marks, do we have anyone who has towed a war line in their investigation?

I am disappointed that even Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where I served also took interest in this nodding disease and their findings are as elusive as our own Ugandan scientists. Top on the American foreign policy at that time of the war was Peace in Northern Uganda, HIV/AIDS and Democracy in Uganda.

All the three areas of this foreign policy have policy gaps. One would say peace was achieved but what peace when HIV/AIDS and nodding disease are still hitting the North? It is documented America committed its troops for this war up to Garamba in DRC. Poisoning by a nerve agent leads to contraction; profuse salivation, convulsions, and involuntary urination and defecation characteristics of the affliction of these children. The health minister called it epilepsy; my foot!

Demoralization is, in a context of warfare, national security, and law enforcement, a process in psychological warfare with the objective to erode morale among enemy combatants and/or noncombatants that can encourage them to retreat, surrender, or defect rather than defeating them in a combat.

Demoralization methods are military tactics such as hit-and-run attacks such as snipers, disturbing the enemy with less-lethal weapons and incapacitating agents, and intimidation such as display of force concentration.

Some methods on the strategic scale are commerce raiding, strategic bombing, static operations such as sieges and naval blockades, and propaganda. Everything points to this: the disease, disability, destitution, and death the nodding disease has caused the people in the affected area shows surrender.

Worst with sleeping ministers and the legislatures that only wakes up when beckoned by the president. The children who have a deputy speaker in parliament in Jacob Oulanyah are totally not represented.

Nothing hurts like an afflicted child. The most traumatizing experience I have in my life is when I oversaw the children’s clinic in Mbarara University Teaching Hospital in 2001 to 2002. The loss of a child is nerve wrecking, yet business is normal with members of parliament from the Northern Uganda, let alone the nation.

It’s so sad when the minister of health, a pediatrician, comes on air and makes political statements not service statements. Those children need national attention. What if UPDF used a chemical weapon, or otherwise? Would we have results or admission? This needs independent investigations.

The author is a Medical clinical officer/Certified public Manager. 

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