BY FLORENCE OYIBODORO
Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder prevalent among children of black African and black Caribbean descendants.
This disease occurs when through inherited blood disorders, the body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells which results in anaemia, occasional body pains and serious infections in childhood.
In Nigeria, the disease is very common. Health statistics states that about two of every hundred children born to Nigeria parents would have haemoglobin, which is the red substance of blood responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body. The blood is therefore not able to carry as much oxygen as it should, due to the rapid breakdown of haemoglobin S.
An estimated 150 thousand babies are born annually in Nigeria with the sickle cell disease, and 70 to 90 die before age five.
Many people are carriers of the sickle cell disorder without knowing, while others are suffering as a result of late detection.
In Delta state, curtailing this health disorder burden in communities is almost becoming a mirage as the control of a genetic disease such as sickle cell disorder is more subtle than other diseases such as malaria.
Poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, religious and ethnic issues in genetic counseling
have been identified as
key factors responsible for high death rate among sickle cell
Several young people especially in the rural areas still get married without knowing their genotype. Some lack the financial
means to check their genotype, others just deemed it not necessary even after being advised but still do not want to believe.
Some sickle cell patients and parents are still in self denial chanting “it’s not my portion”. These who may be of A-S or S-S genotype stubbornly get married to persons of the same genotype instead of searching for a person with the A-A genotype to marry.
When their children are born with sickle cell disorders they resort to quacks for solution, with serious consequences. Many lives have also been lost as a result of
wrong medication such as herbal remedies with razor cuts in various parts of the body of children with the health disorder by unqualified persons.
Medical personnel in the hospitals are inundated with mismanaged
cases several of which would have been managed by just simple
In recent times, records from hospitals across the state had indicated that mortality rates had reduced, while there had been an increase in the number of children coping with the sickle cell
disorder. This increment is no doubt due to improvement in the degree of attention now being given to children living with the disorder by the wife of the state governor, Dame Edith Okowa, through her pet project the 05 Initiative.
In its efforts to address the situation, with a view to reducing the rate of neo natal mortality in the society, the 05 Initiative has so far, established 23 sickle cell clinics, across the state, one referral center at the Asaba Specialist hospital, with newborn screening machine, trained genetic counselors on the management of sickle cell disorder to forestall and improve the mortality among sickle cell sufferers and to guide the patients to reduce the occurrence of fresh cases in the various healthcare institutions in the state.
This great feat had made Delta to become the first state in Nigeria to have a sickle cell referral center with a newborn and adult screening machine system under high performance liquid chromatography with over 70 to 100 sickle cell patients being attended to in various sickle cell clinics across the state.
Well meaning individuals are being encouraged to register children with the health disorder into the Delta state contributory health scheme with just seven thousand Naira per child to enable them benefit from the scheme annually and many children are already enjoying this.
It now behoves on residents of the state, to heed the warning by health personnel which is the responsibility of everyone to know their genotype and for individuals with AS or S-S genotype to avoid getting married to each other. This is the best way to eradicate sickle cell disorder from the society.
FLORENCE OYIBODORO is a journalist with Delta Broadcasting Service, Asaba