Mysterious ‘Nodding Disease’ Kills Children

February 18, 2012 by staff 

Mysterious ‘Nodding Disease’ Kills Children, Patrick Anywar, 14, lies curled up n*ked in the dust and midday heat of a Ugandan village, struggling to look up at his younger brother and sister playing in front of the family home.

After a minute’s effort to face his siblings, Anywar’s head slumps onto his chest and his emaciated body is gripped by convulsions.

Anywar is one of more than 3,000 children in northern Uganda who are suffering from a debilitating mystery ailment known as nodding disease, which has touched almost every family in the village of Tumangu.

For several years, scientists have tried and failed to determine the cause of the illness, which locals say has killed hundreds of youngsters.

What they do know is that the disease affects only children and gradually devastates its victims through debilitating seizures, stunted growth, wasted limbs, mental disabilities and sometimes starvation.

Anywar’s mother, Rugina Abwoyo, has already lost one son, named Watmon, to the disease in 2010. Now she says she can do little but watch on helplessly as another child slips away.

“Before he was walking and running like other children, but now someone always has to stay home to look after him,” Abwoyo told AFP. “The disease is terrible – it does not let him drink or eat by himself.”

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