Government must act on nodding disease!

Published By UNNGOF |  June 24, 2013


As part of the commemoration of International Women’s Day, the women of Uganda are standing in solidarity with the mothers whose children are suffering from Nodding disease. Nodding disease is a symptom of our failed service delivery in health, education, justice and other sectors that reflects an ailing government.

The Women’s movement in Uganda is deeply concerned that government’s response to the nodding disease has been surprisingly inadequate despite over 200 reported deaths, and over 3,000 affected by what has been labeled “nodding disease.” As Government drags its feet, mothers in Northern Uganda are living with the indignity of tying their children to trees. Fellow Ugandans are suffering other humiliations as Government squanders money on dubious and unnecessary spending for example on; jets, cars, saving thieves, state house expenses among others, while Ugandans remain in bondage to poverty, deception and dispossession.

While the disease is said to have been reported in 2009 and could be one of the many negative impacts of the civil wars in Northern Uganda, it is not until recently that treatment centers have been set up and health workers trained on how to best treat and handle the signs and symptoms of the patients. These efforts while recognized, are still cosmetic care and are not geared at the root cause of the disease in order to focus on finding a lasting solution. This in our opinion is a reflection of the larger governance deficits in Uganda that must be urgently addressed.

Prioritization of Resources in the Health Sector remains a concern

The Ministry of Health has been committing a lot of the available share of the country’s health resources to central administration, rather than to actual delivery of health services. An assessment of the 2009/10 budget performance shows that at least 7.2 per cent (which is about Shs1.64 billion) of all non-wage discretionary expenditure under the Ministry of Health – was allocated to fuel and lubricants, a reflection of a large fleet management cost. Conversely, a Health Centre (HC) III is on average allocated UGX 450,000 per month to deliver a range of services, such as maternal health including Emergency Obstetric Care and outreach to the community. This amount is too low to cause any meaningful change in primary health care.

Governance Challenges

As the Women of Uganda we recognize that poor health outcomes are further compounded by corruption and poor governance in the health system and the country at large. There have been many non –productive investments and wasteful practices in the health care sector. First due to the misery poor pay for health workers in Uganda, many of our doctors have sought “greener pastures” elsewhere further compounding the doctor: patient ratios in this country. Further, the liberalism of health care in the country, the emerging middle class, the inclusion of insurance in salary packages have provided strong inducements for investments in private health care at the expense of the public sector. Most of the health specialists no longer avail services to the country.

Call to Action:

With regard to Health Care Services:

  1. The Government must increase the funding to the health sector, coupled with observable reduction in inefficiencies and wasteful spending to increase the responsive of the health sector. We content that a re-allocation within the health ministry should not take away from another priority such as malaria research.
  2. The ministry of Health needs to establish multi-sectoral and multi disciplinary team to study the root cause of the disease.
  3. We demand for the strengthening of the public health institutions and their role in educating the public on health care matters by developing and implementing guidelines to all health practitioners that spell out the rights, duties and responsibilities of the patients and those of the health practitioners to be available and visible in all health care facilities.
  4. Further, the government needs to increase health outreach programmes especially in rural areas during this five year term of office in order to effectively impact on people’s health habits. This has worked very well in Rwanda where the number of women who go to the health centres for supervised deliveries for example, trippled in a space of five years.
  5. Government, civil society and the public must mobilise Ugandans to clean up the filfth in our country. We need to untie ourselves from living in dirty neighbourhoods as part of disease management and control.

With regard to Broader Governance Challenges we demand that:

  1. We call for a re-commitment to upholding constitutionalism which means and includes the immediate restoration of presidential term limits
  2. Decisive action on corruption to save money that should otherwise be channeled to pressing needs of citizens
  3. Restoration of rule of law not rule by law
  4. Uphold and respect the right of every citizen to live a life of dignity

We call upon all right thinking and patriotic Ugandans to challenge the impunity, indignity with which our resources are being squandered, our lives are endangered, the future of our children is obliterated and the rate at which Uganda is sliding back to the dark ages.
We must unite to untie our country from injustice and demand that the life of each citizen in our country is valued and respected.

For more information, please contact:
Women Unite.
Tel + 256772 311713, +256 77 2429837, +256 773 251861