“I remember when I was very little my sister used to talk, but when she got sick she stopped talking and now she only uses signs to communicate,” six-year-old Doreen recalls growing up with her older sister, Winnie, who has nodding syndrome.
Nodding syndrome, characterized by seizures, mental retardation and stunted growth, has affected more than 3000 children in northern Uganda. The cause and cure have not yet been found as the illness continues to halt the lives of young Ugandans, forcing most of those affected to drop out of school.
Medical experts have continued to do research on the mysterious illness that has been found predominantly in children, as civil society organizations have looked for ways to support the children and their families.
The construction of a nodding syndrome center in Odek by Gulu Hope has provided a safe haven for many children to come for medication and psychosocial support designed just for them.
“It’s exciting,” says Collines Angwech, program director for Gulu Hope. She says that she has already noticed an improvement in many of the children who have been able to come for treatment of their symptoms.
The center will focus on more research, monitoring of the sick, treatment, education and ensuring proper nutrition to the children affected by the disease.
Angwech is a student from Invisible Children’s Legacy Scholarship Program, and we couldn’t be more proud of the work she has been doing to improve the lives of children in northern Uganda.