FG to revitalise, reposition 6 zonal sickle cell centres

The Federal Government says it plans to revitalise and reposition the six zonal sickle cell disease centres for improved service delivery.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire,  disclosed this in a statement issued by Mr Olusegun Adetola, the Director, Media and Public Relations to the ministry, on Saturday in Abuja.

Ehanire said this as the World commemorate the 2021 World Sickle Cell Day with theme: “Shine The Light on Sickle Cell”.

“The Federal Government remains committed to access to care for those living with the disease, hence the plans to reposition and revive the centers in six zones.”

He said others were implementation of the national guideline for prevention, control and management of the disease, including the protocol for newborn screening.

Ehanire also hinted of plans for integration of the sickle cell disease care and services into the maternal and child health services, especially at the primary and secondary levels of healthcare in Nigeria.

According to him, the integration will improve early identification of cases and enrolment into the comprehensive care for sickle cell disease.

He said government would scale up advocacy and mass mobilisation of communities on the disease across Nigeria, including continuous advocacy for access to drugs and diagnostics for the disease and mass mobilisation for support for the newborn screening policy.

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“There will be strengthening of supportive supervision, monitoring and evaluation. Institutionalise early identification of cases through universal newborn screening at all levels of care.

“Partnering with social, community, civil society groups, development partners and the private sectors to improve social impacts, initiate and enhance sickle-cell disease surveillance,” he said.

The minister said that sickle cell disease, though endemic in Nigeria,  was also preventable.

According to him, Nigerians must all make concerted efforts in checking their genotype and key into the initiative so that together,  the country can halt this epidemic.

“This will ensure the reduction in the prevalence of the disease in our country,” Ehanire said.

He explained that the disease was a genetic disorder that occurred when an individual has inherited two mutant abnormal haemoglobin genes from both parents.

The minister said government would build synergy with civil society organisations, international institutions and development partners toward the prevention, control and management of the disease in Nigeria.

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He said that available records showed that the disease affected nearly 100 million people in the world and was also responsible for over 50 per cent of deaths in those with the most severe form of the disease.

According to him, it is the most prevalent genetic disease in the African region according to the World Health Organisation.

He said that in many countries of the region, including Nigeria, 10 per cent to 40 per cent of the population carried the sickle-cell gene,  resulting in estimated disease prevalence of at least two per cent.

The minister said the situation in the region also indicated that national policies and plans were inadequate; appropriate facilities and trained personnel were scarce.

He said adequate diagnostic tools and treatment were insufficient for prevention and control of the disease.

He said that Nigeria currently has the highest burden of the disease in the world ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo and India, with an estimated 25 per cent of her adult population being carriers of defective S-genes.

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“WHO in 2015, estimated that two per cent of new-borns in Nigeria are affected by sickle cell anaemia, giving a total of about 150,000 affected children born every year.

“About 50 to 80 per cent of the estimated 150,000 infants born yearly with the disease in Nigeria die before the age of five years.

“While those that manage to survive suffer end-organs damage which shortens their lifespan including stroke,” he said.

The minister said the disease was among the top five Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) significantly contributing to maternal, neonatal, infant and child disability, morbidity and mortality.

According to him, it is a one disorder that may negatively undermine the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) one, three and four.

He added that the theme of the 2021 commemoration had given the country a unique opportunity to create awareness about its increasing burden and need to eliminate the negative notions associated with the disease. (NAN)

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