Christopher Isiguzo and Gideon Arinze in Enugu
The Sickle Cell Support Society of Nigeria (SCSSN) has raised the alarm that about 3.6 million Nigerians representing two per cent of the country’s population are affected by sickle cell disease.
The body noted that the disease has become a major public health challenge that apart from those directly affected, 25 per cent of Nigerians are carrying the gene making it imperative for major stakeholders especially the government to tackle the disease through very coordinated strategy that will reduce its prevalence.
A professor of Paedratic Hematology and the Chairman, of the Society, Prof. Adekunle Adekile raised the alarm during a three-day conference organised by the sickle cell support society of Nigeria in Enugu with the theme: â€˜Reducing the burden of sickle cell disease in our communitiesâ€™. The event was facilitated by Pfizer.
He called on the government to support the sickle cell society in order to reduce the burden of the disease in the communities, noting that the disease has become common all over the world, particularly in Nigeria, which has the largest burden with a total number of over 1,500 children born every year with the disease.
Adekunle said the problem of sickle cell is so pervasive and many of the patients leave in the rural areas and the care in the tertiary or secondary centres is not enough.
He expressed regret that the government has not paid adequate attention to tackling SDC, while noting that the disease cannot be controlled until a comprehensive national policy for the control and management of the patients is introduced.
â€œThe government established 6 centers for the screening of the patients all over the country, but a lot more needed to be done else a lot of the children with the disease will die even before they are 5 yearsâ€
Speaking further, he said that a bill was presented to the national assembly on the control and management of the SCD four years ago, but the bill has not passed the committee stage.
â€œWe must change our orientation on how care is provided for the patients and ensure that we adequately empower our primary health care workers in the communities.â€
On her part, the Director, Corporate affairs Pfizer for Sub-Saharan Africa, Mrs. Magaret Olele said â€œcommunity networking is critical to achieving the aim of reducing the burden of sickle cell in our communities.â€
She noted that sickle cell is not a death sentence even as she advised parents to always identify with organisations that are committed to tackling the scourge of the disease.
The Vice Chairman of SCSSN in Nigeria Prof. Obiageli Nnodu said Sickle Cell Support Society of Nigeria is an umbrella body that brings together professionals, advocates and other interested parties both within the country and in the diaspora to tackle different aspects of sickle cell disease.
The Prof of gynaecology said SCSSN has a special focus on the coordination of different groups, bodies and organisations working on sickle cell disease who have hitherto done their programmes in an uncoordinated manner.