Nigeria has the highest burden of sickle cell diseases (SCD) in the world according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report. In this report, HENRY TYOHEMBA writes on handling SCD victims and need to develop a policy on the disease control measures.
Sickle cell disorder is a lifelong ailment arising from the inheritance, from both parents of sickle haemoglobin (Hb SS) or of Hb S from one parent and another variant pathological such as Hb C (Hb SC) or B thalassaemia (Hb SBthal) from the other parent.
Sickle cell disorder is no doubt the most common inherited disorder in the world. However, despite its threat to humanity, there has been no Sickle cell dedicated in Africa. In Nigeria, the prevalence of the situation is increasing, both among the urban educated elite and in communities with access to effective basic health care.
The deep lack of a policy formulation and education about the disorder within our communities has encouraged the growth of myths and mistreatment, stigmatization and frustration among victims.
In Nigeria, the common type of sickle cell disorder is the homozygous sickle cell disorder (SS) also known as sickle cell anaemis. It has been established that about 24 per cent of the entire population of Nigerian men and women are healthy carriers of sickle cell trait.
It is however, imperative to know ones genotype and to seek help for those diagnosed with sickle cell disease.
In an interview with Shirley Nkechinyere Hills, a sickle cell disorder survivor who runs a health advocacy campaign called ‘Shirley Hills Foundation, she said the major cause of sickle cell disorders in Nigeria is marriage of the same genotype. According to her, if we can meet it at the board, that is just what people can do to avoid sickle cell because it is a genetic blood disease from two people that bear the same traits of AS, that is the only way it can be prevented.
She further added that a development of policy and a bill on sickle cell disease control in Nigeria can really go a long way if stakeholders and interested partners would come out to do the needful. “If the bill is passed we can have as much support as we want. As a matter of fact, it will even give us the policy that says that if you are both AS and you get married, there will be a penalty. People need to check their genotype before marriage so that there will be no cases of this sickle cell disorder.”
She explained that so many people have lost their lives to sickle cell.
The stigmatization of people living with sickle cell has call for an urgent need to improve the quality of lives of the disease victims.
While experts said sickle cell is no more s death sentence as it used to be in the past as half match bone marrow transparent can serve as a cure for the disease. Speaking recently on the issue, a consultant, Bone Marrow Transplant, Dr Gaurav Kharya said that, despite the discovery, to many it is still a death sentence while others merely live with it one day at a time.
He said, “Only a few are aware that sickle cell anemia is no longer as dire as it used to be.” Kharya added that the long awaited cure for sickle cell is available with the first ever successfully reported case of half match bone marrow transplant performed on a four year old Nigerian boy by Doctors at BLK super specialty hospital.
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