Uganda: Nodding Disease Denying Children Their Future

Nodding disease is a mentally and physically disabling disease that affects children between 1 and 10 years. It is currently restricted to small regions in South Sudan, Tanzania and northern Uganda.

The disease is incurable at the moment and its cause is not known. Recently, some old people have also shown signs of the disease. The areas affected by the disease are mainly in the northern region of the country. The disease denies the children a chance to be productive as they cannot do anything for themselves, be it holding a knife to make a meal for the girls, and holding a hoe to plant a single seed for the boys.

An 18 year old man may look like a 3 year old boy and has to be carried around and held to get some heat in the body. The first symptoms of this disease is the continuous nodding of the head, failure to eat and drink. Later on the child becomes stunted physically and mentally.

A Ugandan journalist, Florence Naluyimba, has taken the first initiative to investigate and bring the issue to light. She says although the government is trying to provide medicine to help the victims in 3 health centers, they have to travel long distances on foot or on bicycles to reach the health centers. The sick ones cannot take themselves to the hospitals and have to be carried on the back or put on bicycles for over 30km.

The disease usually leads to seizures and at times this makes them fall into fire, sharp objects or in ponds/rivers, leading to death or severe injuries. Many children have lost body parts such as fingers in these accidents. It so happens that the victims can be too weak to even cry.

The Center for Disease Control plans to carry out aerial spraying targeting black flies, which are suspected to be the major cause of this illness. It is not clear whether this will help or not.
Ugandan villagers complain that samples were taken to USA since 2010, but they have never received any reliable information about the cure and cause since that time.

Below are some pictures and YouTube videos about the disease.

Nodding disease in its initial stages.
Photo courtesy of

A child with injuries in the face after he fell on fire during seizures
Photo courtesy


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