BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja
In a bid to reduce under five mortality and promote the quality of life for those affected with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), the Consortium on Newborn Screening in Africa (CONSA) has launched sites in Abuja and Kaduna to screen 16, 000 babies for sickle cell disease every year in the country.
The Nigerian National Coordinator of CONSA, Professor Obiageli Nnodu, stated this during the launch of the CONSA sites by the University of Abuja and the Sickle Cell Support Society of Nigeria, in Abuja.
Nnodu, who is also the Director, Centre of Excellence for Sickle Cell Disease Research and Training, University of Abuja, said Sickle Cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affect a person’s red blood cells and passed on from parents.
The disorder, according to her, causes normal round and flexible blood cells to become stiff and sickle shaped, which in turn stops the blood cells and the oxygen they carry from moving freely around the body.
She said an estimated 150, 000 babies in Nigeria were born with Sickle Cell disease but many of them do not live past the age of five due to lack of access to diagnostic testing and comprehensive care.
“In Nigeria, newborns will be screened at different sites in Abuja and Kaduna. In Abuja, the sites include the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada Town Clinic, Dobi Clinic, and Dagiri Clinic and other primary and secondary hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory and Federal Medical Centre Keffi.
“In Kaduna, the sites include Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, Yusuf Dantsoho Memorial Hospital, Gwamna Awan Memorial Hospital, Kawo General Hospital. As mothers deliver children in the hospitals, or bring them to the clinic for their first vaccines, they will be offered the screening.
“We are excited to be the first country in CONSA to launch sites to demonstrate how newborn screening as an important public health intervention can save lives of babies born with sickle cell disease in Nigeria,”” she explained.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the burden of sickle cell disease in the country was further worsened by transfusion of hepatitis B, hepatic C , and HIV/AIDS.
The minister, who was represented by the Director Child of the ministry, Dr Stella Nwosu, said that before 2014, there was no coordinated approach to collecting data on the number of sickle cell disease patient in the country, therefore it became necessary to screen the children at birth and enroll them into comprehensive care.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja, who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics, Clement Alawa, said the university was willing to provide necessary support for the success of the initiative.
The CONSA intervention against Sickle Cell disease is also implemented in Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
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