FG Set to Enhance Sickle Cell Care in Maternal and Child Health

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World Sickle Cell Day 2019: More Life-Saving Measures Needed

The Federal Government says it will integrate Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) care and services into maternal and child health to improve early identification of cases.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. All Pate, disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja at a media conference to commemorate the 2024 World Sickle Cell Day (WSCD) with the theme “Hope through progress: advancing care globally.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that sickle cell is a group of disorders that cause red blood cells to become misshapen and break down.

With sickle cell disease, an inherited group of disorders, red blood cells contort into a sickle shape and die early, leaving a shortage of healthy red blood cells (sickle cell anaemla), blocking blood flow and causing pain (sickle cell crisis).

NAN also reports that the World Sickle Cell Day is annually commemorated on 19 June to raise awareness about the disease and the need for urgent action.

The global observance day is also to draw attention to the challenges faced by individuals and families affected by SCD.

The health minister, who was represented by the ministry's Director of Public Health, Dr Chukwuma Anyaike, said the integration was targeted at both primary and secondary levels of healthcare in the country.

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According to him, the integration will improve early detection of cases and enrollment into the comprehensive care for SCD.

He also said that plans were underway to deploy newly validated, efficient and cost-effective point of care screening methods that would identify SCD in new-borns, and in other age groups, as a first line screening method for SCD at different levels of care.

 

He listed other measures to reduce the burden of the disease as: revitalisation and re-positioning of the six SCD centres for improved SCD service delivery and access to care for those living with the disease.

Pate said SCD is the most prevalent genetic disease in the WHO African Region, and that in many countries of the region including Nigeria, 10 to 40 per cent of the population carry the sickle-cell gene, resulting in estimated SCD prevalence of at least two per cent.

He said “the situation in the region also indicates that national policies and strategic action plans are inadequate, while appropriate facilities and trained personnel are scarce.

“In Nigeria, SCD contributes significantly to both child and adult morbidity and mortality.

“Nigeria stands out as the most SCD endemic country in Africa and globally, ahead of India and Democratic Republic of Congo, with an annual infant death of 100,000, representing eight per cent of infant mortality.”

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The minister added that those that managed to survive, do suffer end-organs damage, which not only shortens their lifespan, but also affects their quality of life

He also said it is one disorder that may negatively undermine the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) one, three and four.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo, said that among the more than 120 millon people affected globally by SCD, an estimated 66 per cent live in Africa

He also said that “an average of 1,000 children are born every day with SCD, making it the most prevalent genetically-acquired disease in the African region.”

Mulombo, who was represented by Dr Kelus Msyamboza, said about 6.4 percent of under-five mortality in Africa is attributed to SCD, with a 26 per cent increase in deaths from 2000 to 2019.

 

He, however, said in response to the situation, the organisation developed a strategy to tackle the disease in the WHO African Region, adopted by member states during the 66th Regional Committee for Africa.

Mulombo said the strategy provided a set of public health interventions to reduce the disease burden through improved awareness, prevention and early detection.

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According to him, early diagnosis in new-borns through point-of-care screening allows early treatment that can save lives, alleviate symptoms and reduce suffering from pain.

“As for adults with SCD, regular checks are crucial to monitor signs of organ damage, early detection and effective management, he advised.

He disclosed that Nigeria had been selected as one of the 20 priority countries to implement the PEN-Plus intervention.

On her part, Prof. Obiageli Nnodu, the Director, Centre of Excellence for SCD Research and Training, Unlversity of Abuja (CERSTA), said the centre was carrying out conventional screening of new-borns in 25 Primary Health Care (PHC) centres in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

She added that the centre had screened 22,000 babies in the FCT and 12,000 Kaduna State, while 344 bables had been identifled, while efforts were underway to follow them up.

Nnodu added that infrastructure was built to support a national SCD disease registry, and that capacity had been built to support the immediate roll-out of universal newborn screening.

She explained that though the barriers to screening had been addressed, the centre was still encountering other barriers to enrolment of detected babies.

(NAN)

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