The Ugandan government has come under fire for its handling of a mysterious disease that has killed hundreds of children in the northern part of this impoverished East African nation.
The illness, called nodding disease and characterized by symptoms similar to epilepsy, has afflicted more than 1,000 children since June. Its cause is unknown, and there is no cure. Victims often nod their heads uncontrollably. Many also suffer mental retardation and stunted growth.
Government officials deflect blame for the outbreak. The Health Ministry faults the central government for failing to treat the disease and finance research into its cause. The government blames the Health Ministry for failing to tap funds in the ministry’s budget for malaria control to combat the epidemic.
The standoff has placed intense scrutiny on President Yoweri Museveni’s regime, which stands accused of massive financial mismanagement since a landslide presidential victory last year. Mr. Museveni assumed the presidency in 1986.
Last month, the Finance Ministry rejected the Health Ministry’s request for $3 million just days after it was announced that 170 newly elected members of parliament would receive about $50,000 each to purchase luxury vehicles.
That same week, the government rejected a pay raise for teachers that would have kept pace with the country’s near 30 percent inflation rate.
Tamale Mirundi, a spokesman for Mr. Museveni, defended the government’s position.
Source: Washington Times | Ioannis Gatsiounis