NAIROBI, Aug 1 — Scientists from around the world are meeting in the Ugandan capital Kampala to discuss the nodding disease whose cause is not known but continues to ravage rural communities in northern Uganda.
A statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) office issued on Tuesday said that the over 100 experts will discuss and find a way forward on a number of issues including a clear definition on whether nodding disease is a syndrome or a disease and the association that seems to exist between Onchocerciasis and nodding disease.
The four-day International Scientific Meeting on Nodding Syndrome opened on Monday.
Christine Ondoa, Uganda’s health minister asked the scientists to urgently “harmonize the case definition for nodding syndrome” which is critical to ongoing surveillance and treatment efforts.
She said that since the out break in August 2009 the estimated number of affected children by both epilepsy and nodding syndrome is 3,094 in the northern Ugandan districts of Lamwo, Kitgum and Pader.
The disease is characterized by head nodding, mental retardation, stunted growth affecting children and young adults. It causes young children and adolescents to nod violently while eating.
Joaquim Saweka, WHO Country Representative said that the disease which affects children was worsening the poverty situation in the affected communities as parents spend a lot of time caring for the children instead of engaging in gainful economic activities.
Daniel Graymore, the Country Director of the British development aid agency DFID said that the continued spread of the disease is likely to reverse progress made in rebuilding the region which is coming out of an over two decade long rebellion.