KITGUM, Uganda — Augustine Languna's eyes welled up and then his voice failed as he recalled the drowning death of his 16-year-old daughter. The women near him looked away, respectfully avoiding the kind of raw emotion that the head of the family rarely displayed.
"What is traumatizing us," he said after regaining his composure, "is that the well where she died is where we still go for drinking water."
Joyce Labol was found dead about three years ago. As she bent low to fetch water from a pond a half mile from Languna's compound of thatched huts, an uncontrollable spasm overcame her. The teen was one of more than 300 young Ugandans who have died as a result of the mysterious illness that is afflicting more and more children across northern Uganda and in pockets of South Sudan.
The disease is called nodding syndrome, or nodding head disease, because those who have it nod their heads and sometimes go into epileptic-like fits. The disease stunts children's growth and destroys their cognition, rendering them unable to perform small tasks. Some victims don't recognize their own parents.
Ugandan officials say some 3,000 children in the East African country suffer from the affliction. Some caregivers even tie nodding syndrome children up to trees so that they don't have to monitor them every minute of the day.
Beginning Monday, Uganda hosts a four-day international conference on nodding syndrome that health officials believe will lead to a clearer understanding of the mysterious disease.
World Health Organization officials in Uganda said the conference will be attended by about 120 scientists from all over the world.
By Geir Moulson
BERLIN — The German and Italian leaders issued a new pledge to protect the eurozone, while the influential eurogroup chairman was quoted Sunday as saying that officials have no time to lose and will decide in the coming days what measures to take.
The weekend comments capped a string of assurances from European leaders that they will do everything they can to save the 17-nation euro. They came before markets open for a week in which close attention will be focused on Thursday's monthly meeting of the European Central Bank's policy-setting governing council.
Last Thursday, ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank would do "whatever it takes" to preserve the euro — and markets surged on hopes of action.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Premier Mario Monti "agreed that Germany and Italy will do everything to protect the eurozone" in a phone conversation Saturday, German government spokesman Georg Streiter said, a statement that was echoed by Monti's office.
That was nearly identical to a statement issued Friday by Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, which followed Draghi's comments.
Though they didn't pledge any specific action, the comments raised expectations that the ECB might step in to buy Spanish and perhaps Italian government bonds to lower the countries' borrowing costs, which have been worryingly high in recent weeks. Another possibility might be for the eurozone's temporary rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, to buy bonds.
"What measures we will take, we will decide in the coming days," Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister who also chairs meetings of the eurozone finance ministers, or eurogroup, was quoted as telling the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "We no longer have any time to lose."
Italy and Spain have the eurozone's third- and fourth-largest economies, respectively, behind Germany and France.
Merkel and Monti agreed that decisions made by last month's European Union summit "must be implemented as quickly as possible," Streiter said, again echoing Friday's Merkel-Hollande statement.
Those included allowing Europe's bailout fund — once a new, independent bank supervisor is set up — to give money directly to a country's banks, rather than via the government. Countries that pledge to implement reforms demanded by the EU's executive Commission also would be able to tap rescue funds without having to go through the kind of tough austerity measures demanded of Greece, Portugal and Ireland, which have had to get international bailout packages.