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A Day of Prayer for Children Affected with Nodding Syndrome in Pader, Uganda

Activities: a) Communal prayers together with families and children affected by the disease b) Visiting the affected children in hospitals c) Issuing of basic foodstuff including cereals, pulses, powder milk, and other nutritional foods.

Activity Recap

1. Sensitization through the media 

 Prior to 20th November 2012, religious leaders through the radio (102 MEGA fm and Mighty Fire 91.5fm) mobilized and sensitized the public on the need for prevention and control of nodding disease. They appealed to parents to take the affected children to the nearest health facilities at the earliest possible opportunity to receive adequate care.

2. Communal prayer with families and children

In both locations, local government officials, Child Care Ministry representatives, religious leaders and the surrounding communities were present to celebrate the day. The day begun with a prayer procession with religious leaders from different Christian denominations and the Muslim faith represented. Each of the religious leader’s present appealed for assistance especially psychosocial support to parents and children in affected homes. The religious leaders appealed to the government and the international bodies to provide the centers with medical services and shelters with nutritional supplements as well as medical supplies which are scarce.

The religious leaders were concerned and also raised the question why the Acholi region is bombarded with diseases such as Ebola, yellow fever, meningitis and currently the Nodding Syndrome. Bishop Gakumba Johnson from the Anglican Church (Northern Uganda) noted that it is necessary for the religious leaders to continue to inform the community of the nodding syndrome and other diseases affecting the community. They further denounced the belief by the community that the syndrome is connected to curses and evil spirits saying this was totally untrue!

The religious leaders urged for continuous prayers and intervention as well as resilience and acceptance of families affected. While lauding the government for providing facilities and building health centres, the religious leaders noted that there was still more to be done. They also prayed for families, the nation and for peace in the country with a special offertory conducted specifically for the victims of nodding syndrome in Kitgum. Religious leaders agreed that each year, they would hold special interreligious prayers for children affected by disease so that the community begins to accommodate the affected families and children. Rev Gakumba quoted a bible verse that says, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I have come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly”. The scripture was intended to give hope to the affected children.

3. Visit to affected children in hospital

The visit took place inAtanga- Lacekocot and Okidi Health Centre, Omida Sub County_Kitgum District in Pader and Kitgum districts respectively. The hopelessness of the victims was evident through this story narrated by Vicky, a 14 year old girl:

I was the pride of my family, I used to go to school as the other children in the village but I later had to abandon school due to constant attacks, I could no longer go to school as I was getting weak and could not walk for long because of fatigue, it has been a tough journey for me as I had the intention of becoming a doctor one day, but this is not possible as I cannot concentrate for long hours also the stigma and ridicule by the society has made me to keep to myself. I wish the government could do something as soon as possible so that I could get medication and treatment so that I pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.

Parents of victims have had to stay away from home as they care for their affected children forcing them into a state of poverty. The visiting team made an appeal to government and well wishers to offer psychosocial services to parents, children and affected families and provide nutritional supplements and beddings to health centres in addition to increasing the number of medical doctors. More funds should also be channeled to research to better understand the disease and avoid further suffering and deaths.

With the biting poverty, coupled with the inattentiveness or inability of caregivers to respond adequately, the day of prayer offered opportunity for moral and material support to the affected families. They were offered nutritional foodstuffs such as dried fish, rice and enriched flour to treat children’s malnutrition.

Achievements

  • Religious leaders from all faiths drafted a joint communiqué requesting the government to pay more attention to the nodding syndrome (attached in appendix)
  • The celebrations were aired in leading media Houses such as Nation Television (NTV) Uganda
  • 311  victims of nodding syndrome were treated at the centres and offered basic food supplements
  • The joint effort which was the first was celebrated by all senior religious leaders in northern Uganda
  • Religious leaders agreed that they would dedicate joint prayers each year (November) to children and families affected by the syndrome
Date: Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Location:
Pader, Uganda

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