April 1, 2013

Arua Hospital: Cerebral Palsy On the Rise in West Nile

Arua referral hospital is struggling to cope with the high number of patients suffering from cerebral palsy as a result of poor antenatal care or teenage pregnancies. Cerebral palsy refers to the permanent tightening of muscles caused by brain damage before or during birth. Jackson Oscar Dumba, a senior occupational therapist at Arua Hospital says they are overwhelmed by the high number of patients coming in from as far as the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

On average, Arua Referral hospital receives 50 children with nervous disorders each week. Dumba explains that some of the cases are a result of poor feeding by mothers during pregnancy and diseases like malaria, which if untreated affect the development of the fetus in the womb. He says the situation is worsened by the fact that medical workers at the lower health units are ignorant about cerebral palsy. Dumba says that the medical workers often confuse the condition with malaria, and end up prescribing the wrong medication for the patients.

He says because of the high number of patients suffering from cerebral palsy and limited trained staff, they use one child to demonstrate to mothers how to handle children with this condition. The training involves showing mothers how to improve head balancing and reduce abnormal body movements amongst the patients. He says their efforts to treat these children have been hampered by lack of equipment such as special seats, chairs, balloons and toys needed for their therapy  sessions. Dr. Bernard Odu, the Director Arua Referral hospital says that they are faced with the problem of limited specialist staff.

26-year-old Evelyn Bulea, a resident of Awindiri ward in Arua municipality is the mother of an eight-month-old baby with Cerebral palsy. She says that soon after she gave birth, her baby could neither breath nor move his limbs. Bulea says that her clansmen attributed the boy’s condition to the failure by her husband to pay bride price for their daughter. She says that as a result, her husband paid the bride price but the baby’s condition remained the same.

Bulea decided to take her baby to Arua Hospital, where his condition was diagnosed and put on physiotherapy. The babies are taken through special body exercises and their parents counseled on how to deal with them. Because of the suffering she has gone through, Bulea has now decided to mobilize mothers whose babies have a similar condition to form an association to sensitize other woman in the villages to take their children to hospital for treatment

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