Defiled Nodding Syndrome Victims Raise Protection Concern

The case of a 15 year old girl who was defiled twice in Pader district has raised protection concern for nodding syndrome victims.

A Nodding Syndrome victim in Northern Uganda. PHOTO/Edward Echwalu
A Nodding Syndrome victim in Northern Uganda. PHOTO/Edward Echwalu

The girl, who now has an 8 months old baby was taken advantage of and defiled by her cousin, Patrick Komakech, as she went to the market in Angagura Sub County in September 2011. The suspect was arrested and remanded at Kinene prison, but he reportedly escaped and is back in the village.

Evelyn Lalam, the victim’s mother, says men took advantage of her sick child to defile her.

The girl told URN during an interview that all she needed was support in terms of housing, clothing and food in order to take care of her young child.

Lalam says she doesn’t know why it is taking long for the suspects to be apprehended. She says some of the suspects are within Pader and walking freely.

Anthony Opio, the officer in charge Pader prisons, says they have been working hand in hand with the police to re-arrest the suspect, Patrick Komakech, who escaped from prisons, but he is being kept by the community.

Up to five girls suffering from the mysterious nodding syndrome in Pader district have been defiled and no suspect has been arrested yet. Opio says the suspects are mostly related to the victim or they are neighbours.

The Pader Resident District Commissioner, Justin Lunganjul, has ordered for the immediate arrest of the suspects. He warned the community and parents against protecting such people stating that they will continue defiling and raping the nodding syndrome girls who do not have any power to fight back or to consent.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission in Pader says that it will look at the case of the defiled nodding disease victims and ensure that they all get justice. Amina Yusuf, the human rights officer, says such cases should be documented and justice should prevail no matter how much the suspects disappear. She appealed to organizations like Caritas who are offering psychosocial support to have a special consideration for such cases.

Currently documented cases of nodding syndrome total to over 3,000 out of which more than 170 have died. There are over 1,500 cases of nodding syndrome in Pader alone.

Nodding syndrome is an unexplained neurologic condition characterized by episodes of repetitive dropping forward of the head, often accompanied by other seizure-like activity, such as convulsions or staring spells. The condition predominantly affects children aged 5–15 years and has been reported in South Sudan from the states of Western and Central Equatoria, in Northern Uganda and southern Tanzania.

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