AMURU-Several parents of children recovering from the nodding disease want their young girls enrolled on contraceptives to protect them from unwanted pregnancies.
The parents say the weak girls always fall prey to men who sexually abuse them and end up producing children without consent.
Most of the parents who are from Atiak Sub-county in Amuru District say the contraceptives will help reduce cases of unwanted pregnancies and responsibilities.
Nodding syndrome is a neurological illness, which affects mainly children of five to 15 years, and is characterised by involuntary nodding of head. The disease retards the growth of the victims, and it is estimated that nearly 3,000 children, mainly in Kitgum, Pader and Omoro districts in Acholi Sub-region, are affected by the disease and 500 have died since 2010.
Mr John Otim, 47, of Okidi Village, whose two girls are recovering from nodding disease and are receiving specialised care at Atiak Health Centre IV, said the only way to protect his girls from unwanted pregnancies is to get them on contraceptives.
Mr Otim said the affected girls are of 17 and 20 years, adding that they are sexually active despite their poor health.
“My daughters have reached ages in which they are sexually very active yet they are still recovering from the syndrome that affects their mental health. They are so vulnerable in the community and I believe the only way they can be helped is if they are given contraceptive pills,” Mr Otim said in an interview on Monday.
Ms Mary Aluku of Pacilo Gunya Village in Atiak Sub-county, said she is scared that with her daughter’s poor health, she might end up having a child.
“I have witnessed from other people how their daughters conceived early because they fell victims of rape and defilement. I believe if these girls are given contraceptives, it will help them avoid early pregnancies and unwanted children,” Ms Aluku said.
But Dr Angelo Okello, the in-charge of Atiak Health Centre IV, said much as giving out contraceptives to the girls is a good idea, he says their consent must also be sought and also get them examined by medics.
“We do not object to the parents’ proposal as long as it will help them and their daughters but the procedures should be strictly followed, including considering their age, and giving them the correct contraceptives,” he said.
However, the Amuru District nodding syndrome focal point person, Mr Milton Okello, said the majority of girls who get pregnant in the affected areas are in relatively good health.
“The use of contraceptive is a choice. If these parents feel it’s the only way to help their daughters from getting pregnant then they can proceed to use it. We have no objection, but it should be inserted with their full consent,” Mr Okello said.
He said statistics from his office indicate that about 10 girls, who are recovering from nodding syndrome, are currently cohabiting and are in good health.
About the disease
Affected. A total of 58 children are recovering from the disease in Amuru District.
Omoro. In Omoro District, at least five of the girls recovering from nodding syndrome in Odek Sub-county have been impregnated by unidentified men since the year began.
Teenage pregnancy. The 2016 Uganda Demographic Health survey indicates that 25 per cent of adolescent girls and young women of between 15 and 19 years are either pregnant or are mothers.