Martins Ifijeh
The National Director of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria, Dr. Annette Akinsete has revealed that about 150,000 children are born with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) yearly in the country, representing the highest number of persons born with it across the globe.

Dr. Akinsete, who said many of these children do not grow into adulthood, especially in Nigeria where awareness and management of the disease is slow, noted that Nigeria must be in the forefront of finding a cure for it since the country has the highest burden of the disease in the world.

Speaking at the Sickle Cell Rural Outreach programme held in Ijede, Ikorodu, recently, she said gone were the days when SCD was a death sentence. “With proper information, the disease can be managed successfully, while the victim lead a normal life.”

She said this was part of why the Foundation was moving from community to community educating the public, especially in rural areas where various myths exist and awareness was low.

She said contrary to beliefs in some areas that the disease was caused by witchcraft or ogbanje, that it was of genetic origin, which through counselling may be prevented, as the genotype of both parents plays the role on whether their child will have the disease or not.

She called on the government to come up with newborn screening policy where SCD can be detected early in children. “This is done in the United Kingdom and the United States, and it has greatly helped in reducing number of crisis or death arising from the disease.

She also thanked Multichoice Nigeria for being a solid backbone in creating awareness on the disease, as well as supporting the Foundation to achieve its aim.

On his part, the Managing Director of Multichoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, said with over 40 million Nigerians healthy carriers of the sickle cell gene, and with over 150,000 children dying from the scourge, it represents by far the largest burden of disorder anywhere in the world, and most of these children often die in childhood due to ignorance and lack of access to proper diagnosis and care.

“Hence, Multichoice is committed to using its broadcast platforms; DSTV and Gotv to create awareness on this health burden.