Phone calls and political ping-pong: nodding syndrome and healthcare provision in Uganda

This article pays attention to the poorly understood nodding syndrome (NS) and its political connotations, while exploring a case of mortality in northern Uganda. The appearance of a novel set of symptoms combined with heated debates in national media and parliament, resulted in the creation of a parallel healthcare system for children afflicted by NS. This article increases our understanding of the role of the state in healthcare provision and the range of factors influencing the outcomes of, and perceptions of, healthcare programmes. The political constellations that arise from the emergence of NS should be seen within a historical framework of regional politics. The government is perceived as an important actor in the delivery of healthcare, but is also subjected to a lot of distrust that has built up over recent decades in northern Uganda. The response to NS raises questions on the status of Acholi as citizens of Uganda and reveals feelings of detachment from the national healthcare system. By publicly questioning the role of government, the affected families have become participants in the political arena.

Title: Phone calls and political ping-pong: nodding syndrome and healthcare provision in Uganda
Author: Bemmel, Karin van
Year: 2019
Periodical: Journal of Eastern African Studies (ISSN 1753-1063)
Volume: 13
Issue: 3
Pages: 485-503
Language: English
Geographic term: Uganda
External link: https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2019.1603960
Abstract: This article pays attention to the poorly understood nodding syndrome (NS) and its political connotations, while exploring a case of mortality in northern Uganda. The appearance of a novel set of symptoms combined with heated debates in national media and parliament, resulted in the creation of a parallel healthcare system for children afflicted by NS. This article increases our understanding of the role of the state in healthcare provision and the range of factors influencing the outcomes of, and perceptions of, healthcare programmes. The political constellations that arise from the emergence of NS should be seen within a historical framework of regional politics. The government is perceived as an important actor in the delivery of healthcare, but is also subjected to a lot of distrust that has built up over recent decades in northern Uganda. The response to NS raises questions on the status of Acholi as citizens of Uganda and reveals feelings of detachment from the national healthcare system. By publicly questioning the role of government, the affected families have become participants in the political arena.