Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, says sickle cell carriers deserve better quality life.
He said in Abuja on Tuesday that the carriers are people who are at risk of crises with negative impact on their growth and development, education, social and economic wellbeing.
The minister made the declaration at the Shehu Olaitan Mohammed (SOM) Sickle Cell Foundation’s first annual dialogue tagged “Better Life for Persons Living with Sickle Cell Disorder.’’
SOM Sickle Cell Foundation organised the dialogue in collaboration with the Yakubu Gowon Centre.
Ehanire was represented at the dialogue by the Director in charge of Specialty Hospitals in the ministry, Dr Salaudeen Jimoh.
He said that the Ministry of Health was strongly committed to a holistic improvement in the quality of healthcare for all Nigerians including persons living with sickle cell disorders.
According to the minister, the ministry gives priority attention to sickle cell carriers because they bear no fault in carrying the cells.
“Many of them also have challenges in their work places, and family lives which further put undue pressure on their daily lives with attendant psycho-social consequences.
“In furtherance of the need for national priority attention to sickle cell disorders, the Federal Ministry of Health created a sickle cell disease desk in the ministry.
“The desk develops and implements policies, programmes and activities to prevent and control sickle cell disease.
“A lot of awareness still needs to be created to enlighten Nigerians that sickle cell disorder has no bearing with witchcraft as erroneously believed.
“This will help parents and carriers to overcome stigmatisation and present promptly to hospitals for proper medical attention to prevent disabilities are associated with sickle cell crises,’’ he said.
In his remarks, originator of the foundation, Mr Shehu Mohammed, said it planned to increase the number of sickle cell enrolees in National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIA) to 400 in the next five years.
Mohammed said that the organisation had already enrolled 100 sickle cell warriors in the scheme and planned to upgrade the number of enrolees.
According to him, the foundation plans to start its “Know Your Genotype’’ drive which will involve conducting free genotype testing for minimum of 100 persons every year.
“The target group for the test will be senior secondary and tertiary institution students.
“On our part, we believe that engaging adolescents and students in senior secondary school and tertiary institutions will be more productive.
“They should know their genotypes and the implications of their actions, particularly in future relationships,’’ he said.
Mohammed added that Tuesday’s dialogue was aimed at exposing people to the fact that their genotypes played a crucial role in deciding who to marry.
The knowledge also helps in staving off the possibility of giving birth to sickle cell carriers, he stressed.
“If people can use their brain more than their hearts at the time of deciding who their partners should be, it will go a long way in reducing the prevalence of sickle cell disease in our society,’’ he said.
In her contribution, Head of Administration, Yakubu Gowon Centre, Mrs Bilikisu Bawa, appreciated science for evolving genetic study of cells of individuals and arriving on compatibility.
“In times past, most fatality in families particularly in children were ignorantly attributed to evil spirits, whereas, it was genotype incompatibility.
“This event is a new thinking in another dimension to expand public awareness through all-stakeholders approach that will ameliorate the various challenges from pre-marital relationship management to making life better for sickle cell warriors.
“The event is also expected to come out with best lifestyles for persons with SS genotype in avoiding disorders in the sickle cell arrangements,’’ she said.
The WHO states that more than 300,000 babies are born annually with sickle cell disorders globally.
It states also that sub-Sahara Africa has more than 75 per cent of the cases globally and 66 per cent of the cases are in Nigeria alone. (NAN)