by EMMA MULLINGS
War, murder, torture, rape, cannibalism. Welcome to the aftermath of ‘Kony’ and his Rebels. As the recovery from the war continues in Northern Uganda it seems this fragile nation has been delt another blow. “Nodding Disease” is sweeping through the region, literally taking out a generation with it.
Let me tell you about “Nodding Disease”. It is a disease that only has recently made itself known, the first case in this area being recorded around 2007. It affects children between the ages of 5 and 15; symptoms include nodding uncontrollably when presented with food, also nodding off in a dazed kind of state.
Seizures, similar to epilepsy, elephantiasis symptoms, limbs not growing, erratic behavior, dental abnormalities, uncontrollable drooling, vacant facial stares, elephantitus and retarded physical growth to name a few.
A lot of the children with Nodding Disease present with severe burns to their body, they have either had a seizure and been burnt by the family’s cooking fire, or they have (in a state of daze) thrown themselves into the fire. Children erratically have run off into the bushes and stepped on animal traps, breaking and splitting their legs open. Children have also drowned after throwing themselves in the river unintentionally during a seizure or whilst in a “dazed state”.
As the child is in a “daze” and “out of it” the cases of sexual violence against the young girls suffering Nodding Disease is very high. Resulting in numerous cases of (on average) 14 year olds pregnant and unaware of what happened or who the father is. Nodding disease also affects their memory so there is no hope of identifying their rapist even if there was an opportunity to do so.
It is common to see a child tied up at the family’s hut or out the back like a dog. This is done by the parents to keep them safe as many of them will have burns or other injuries caused by their erratic behavior.