Decades of conflict have had vast arrays of catastrophic effects on humanitarian and economic stability of Northern Uganda (NU). These problems range from countless loss of lives, abduction of children for child-soldiers and sex slaves for Lord Resistant Army (LRA), collapse of local economy, dilapidation of civil infrastructure, loss of property (livestock and homes), breakdown of healthcare and education facilities, loss of cultural structure and norms, loss of skills among youth and dependency on hand-outs from international donor organisations. Moreover, the squalid Internal Displaced Person (IDP) camps were breeding grounds for diseases, rapist, pedophiles, and abductors that caused the death of over 1,500 people weekly resulting into thousands of orphans. For more than two decades, they waited for the war to end, meanwhile, their villages, crops, and livestock were destroyed and or looted.

In 2008, the Uganda government released Acholi people from the camps to go home. The camps were homes for Acholi people for more than 20 years where they were provided with outdated food, expired medications, and poorly resourced education. After 20 years in camps, most people forgot to work and to engage in economic development. When Acholi people returned to their land, they had no food, no animals, no schools, no hospitals, and worse no homes to go back to. They also brought back something even more insidious: a disease that began attacking thousands of children between the ages of 5-15 years old, known as Nodding Syndrome (NS).

Nodding Syndrome is a debilitating medical condition that affects cognitive ability, causes cerebral palsy, decreased physical ability with no emotional and or social ability to interact.

There is some anecdotal evidence purporting that chemical weapons might have been used during the conflict in an attempt to eradicate Acholi people from NU. However, research indicates ingestion and exposure to toxins and toxicants in food provided in the IDPC might be responsible for the spread of NS in NU. Presently, a large proportion of children are born healthy but when they turn 5 years old, they develop NS disease. There is no current research output underpinning the actual cause of NS and no clear record of the number of children affected.

Nodding Syndrome (NS) is largely unknown around the world. Majority of people especially outside of Uganda have never heard of NS and are unaware of its devastating consequences to the victims. Nodding Syndrome causes children to waste away, be tied to trees to prevent wandering which often leads to accidental death (refer to appendix). This is because there are no safe places of care for the victims. As a result, parents frequently tie their children to trees or posts for their own safety to keep them from wandering off into dangerous places. The victims of NS require 24 hours care in order to meet their needs and prevent occurrence of fatal accidents. Most days they suffer from seizures lasting up to 3 days spreading over 2 months. During seizures, they cannot control their body movement and are prone to wandering off where they can accidentally fall into open fires or drown in bodies of water causing disfigurement or even death. Northern Uganda is prone to wildfires and flush flooding, which are harmful to the victims of NS. Each episode of seizures attenuates the victim’s mental capacity. Over the course of time, many children develop severe growth retardation; a child who is 12 or 13 years of age has the appearance of a 5-year-old. Children lose control of their bodies and are no longer able to perform basic acts of bathing, feeding and or dressing, and eventually regress to child-like stage of development.

Most victims of NS require full time care, and this leads to parents ceasing work or farming. The parents are always on the guard for episodes of seizures. Consequently, they are unable to attend to their farm due to the burden of care. Meaning, they have no food all year round and are always begging for food. The families affected are not able to engage in economic activities due to the caring responsibility. As a result, most parents neglect their children by locking them up in their mud huts and leaving their children to die of starvation. As there are no community care for the victims, most grandparents take over the caring responsibility but they too scum to the difficulty of providing 24 hours care with limited resources and food.

Research indicates that the only way to manage and treat these children is by meeting their basic needs (Lancet, 2016). Project implemented by an American organisation Hope for Human indicates that providing nutritious diet rich in vitamins B triggered significant weight gain and reduced seizures in the victims of NS. Furthermore, the victims who attended Hope for Human special school were able to learn and be included in the main education system. However, Hope for Human shut down the organisation due to lack of funding, and the children were released back to their villages into their poor living environment, and most succumbed to death. Those who survived, have no capacity to live independently and still require 24 hours support. Furthermore, the victims are not able to participate in economic development or achieve education qualifications. Besides, the local schools do not have the capacity, resources, and expertise to provide services appropriate for NS sufferers.

In summary, NS kills many of its victims prematurely. Death often appears to be a result of accidents such as drowning, falling into open fire, starvation, and seizures in the late stages of the disease, which can be avoided by provision of proper health care services.