Chairman of the Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (SCFN) Professor Olu Akinyanju has said that Nigeria has the highest burden of Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD) in the world with 150,000 new births every year. Professor Akinyanju made this known today at a one-day workshop on Sickle Cell Reporting and Advocacy organized by the foundation in Lagos.
The workshop was organized to commemorate the World Sickle Cell Awareness Day which was held on June 19.
Akinyanju described sickle cell as a genetic disorder that posed a major public health in the country, saying: “SCD is the commonest inherited haemoglobin disorder in the world and three quarters of cases occur in Africa. Out of the 500,000 children born with a haemoglobin disorder, 70 per cent of them are born with SCD.
“Nigeria has the highest burden of SCD disorder worldwide with 150,000 babies born each year with the disorder.”
According to him, over 40 million Nigerians are healthy carriers of the sickle cell haemoglobin AS trait while about 80 per cent of children with SCD are born in developing and low income countries, even as 50 to 80 per cent of children with SCD die each year in these countries.
Factors like ignorance, lack of access to good healthcare services, stigmatistion, poverty and superstitions have contributed to the mortality rate of this blood disorder,” he said.
Professor Akinyanju said that there was a need for national guidelines on sickle cell diagnosis and treatment to help improve the life expectancy of people with SCD.
He called on government at all levels, stakeholders and media to provide advocacy to help to reduce the burden of the disease.
“There is also a need for government to provide intensive funding for researches, equitable and efficient treatment. The role of the media in providing advocacy for enlightenment and awareness campaigns cannot be undermined.
“We want to get to a place whereby SCD disease will be regarded like other diseases such as anaemia, hypertension and diabetes. People with SCD can also live a normal life and have longevity with modern treatment.”
Also, Dr Annette Akinsete, the National Director of the foundation said that newborn screening and genetic counselling would ensure proper management of the disease.
SCD is one of the world’s foremost genetic diseases with severe physical, psychological and social consequences for those affected and their families.
There is need for advocacy to facilitate access to education, effective management and treatment of SCD.
Genetic counselling helps people with the disorder and their families to make informed decisions about reproduction, and is vital for effective management of the disease.” [myad]