Today is World Sickle Cell Day with the theme ‘Shine the Light on Sickle Cell’. June 19th every year has been set aside as an important day by the United Nations to recognise sickle cell anaemia as a public health problem and to promote education about this genetic condition.

Sickle cell anaemia is a condition in which there are not enough healthy red blood cells to transport adequate oxygen throughout the body. Sickle cell disease affects nearly 100 million people worldwide and is responsible for over 50% of deaths among those with the most severe form of the disease.

It is estimated that each year over 300,000 children are born annually with sickle cell disease (SCD) in Africa. SCD is a significant contributor to NCD-related child mortality globally, causing up to 15% of deaths in children aged less than 5 years. Without appropriate intervention, up to 90% of those born with the condition die before their fifth birthday.

According to Dr Oluwatosin Adeoye in her article in the Punch Newspapers, titled ‘’ Challenges in Nigeria’s management of sickle cell disease,’’ she made us understand that ‘Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder inherited from one’s parents and characterised by the inheritance of two abnormal genes with one of the abnormal genes being haemoglobin “S.” It’s commoner in blacks although it is a global disease. It is said to have originated from Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria still has the highest burden of sickle disease in the world’

Nigeria leads the world in the number of cases of sickle cell disease (SCD). An estimated 150,000 babies are born annually in Nigeria with SCD, a heredity disorder, and 70-90% die before age 5.

Experts say sickle cell anaemia can lead to many complications such as stroke, acute chest syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, organ damage, blindness, leg ulcers, and pregnancy complications, among others.

For instance, it is believed that sickle cells can block blood flow to an area of the brain, igniting stroke signs such as seizures, weakness or numbness of arms and legs, sudden speech difficulties, and loss of consciousness.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 70% of deaths could be; prevented with a low-cost diagnostic and treatment plan, but what else can we do to reduce sickle cell disease among our people?

  • Screening of sickle cell disease among our newborns. Which is one of the best ways to tackle the surge of SCD.
  • Promote effective education about sickle cell disease and its management
  • Increase awareness programmes that will help in reducing ignorance about the disease.
  • Providing affordable healthcare for people living with sickle cell disease is another means by which there can be effective management of sickle cell disease in this part of the world.
  • Availability of medical therapies in the management of sickle cell disease to the people at an affordable price; and under a conducive atmosphere.
  • Like other NCDs, managing sickle cell anaemia is expensive in terms of getting the needed drug therapies. So we are asking that the government and other international organisations/donors (like WHO) should make SCD drugs and treatment available to our people like what they did with HIV/AIDS and TB.
  • Nigeria government through her health agencies, concentrate more on the treatment of SCD complications than preventive/ management of sickle cell disease. There should be awareness among our youth who are yet to be married or about to on the importance of knowing their blood genotypes
  • We must remove the stigmatisation associated with the people living with sickle cell disease. We must see them as people with special needs and not see them as cast out with ‘names’.

Lastly, our salute to our born warriors in the battles against Sickle Cell anaemia in Nigeria, keep the fights on! Hold on to your hopes and dreams you can all achieve whatever you ever dream of, if you believe.

SCD, it’s a war that will be won very soon through proper enlightenment and collaborations.

Courtesy: #ROHSI3 Team members.

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