Minister: Nigeria has highest burden of sickle cell disease in the world

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has disclosed that Nigeria currently has the highest burden of sickle cell disease in the world ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo and India, with an estimated 25% of her adult population being carriers of defective S-gene.

This is as he also noted that available record shows that sickle cell disease affects nearly 100 million people in the world and is also responsible for over 50% of deaths in those with the most severe form of the disease (Hb SS).

Ehanire in a statement to commemorate 2021 World Sickle Cell Day cited the report by the World Health Organisation(WHO) in 2015 which estimated that 2% of newborns in Nigeria are affected by sickle cell anaemia, giving a total of about 150,000 affected children born every year.

Ehanire pointed out that about 50% to 80% of the estimated 150,000 infants born yearly with SCD in Nigeria die before the age of five years and those that manage to survive suffer end-organs damage which shortens their lifespan including stroke.

According to Ehanire, “the 2021 World Sickle Cell Day commemoration with the theme “Shine the Light on Sickle Cell” gives Nigerians a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the increasing burden of SCD and eliminate the negative notion associated with it as well as building synergy with civil society organizations, international institutions and development partners towards the prevention, control and management of SCD in Nigeria.

Ehanire also noted that in recognition of the huge burden of Sickle Cell Disease in Nigeria, the government of Nigeria over the years has instituted several strategic Interventions to address the challenges of the disease through the Federal Ministry of Health.”

“These strategic interventions include six centres of excellence for the control and management of Sickle Cell Disease were established across Nigeria in each geo-political zones with each equipped with HPLC and other complementary equipment and staff to serve as a hub for newborn screening.”

“National guidelines for the prevention, control and management of Sickle Cell Disease including protocol for newborn screening were produced.”

“Integration of the Non-Communicable Diseases including Sickle Cell Disease care and services into the primary healthcare services were initiated.”

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“Draft Nigeria-PEN adapted from WHO-PEN included Sickle Cell Disease for Nigeria taking into account the genetic counselling, diagnosis, newborn screening and comprehensive care package for Sickle Cell Disease within the primary healthcare level with inbuilt cost-effective referral system.”

“The establishment of the Multi-sectorial Action Program (MSAP) Technical Committee involving different MDAs in addressing the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Nigeria.”

“Advocacy and mass mobilization for awareness creation on Sickle Cell Disease and the importance of genetic counselling and testing for Hb genotype commenced in some parts of the country. This is an ongoing initiative.”

“The Federal Ministry of Health ongoing validation study for the use of Point of Care Screening Test (POCT) kit for early identification and diagnosis of Sickle Cell Disease in of new-born, children and adult at all levels of care in Nigeria.”

“Harmonization of the various Sickle Cell Disease Bills pending at the National Assembly to increase Government attention for the prevention, control and management of SCD in the country within the framework of Non-Communicable Diseases control programme as part of UN-WHO strategy for the prevention, control and management of SCD.”

Ehanire further stated that government’s current plan for the immediate future includes the revitalization and repositioning of the six zonal Sickle Cell Disease centres for improved Sickle Cell Disease service delivery and access to care for those living with the disease.

“Implementation of the national guideline for the prevention, control and management of Sickle Cell Disease including the protocol for newborn screening.”

“Integration of Sickle Cell Disease care and services into the maternal and child health services especially at the primary and secondary levels of healthcare in Nigeria to improve early identification of cases and enrolment into the comprehensive care for Sickle Cell Disease.”

“Scaling up of advocacy and mass mobilization of communities on Sickle Cell Disease across Nigeria including continuous advocacy for access to drugs and diagnostics for Sickle Cell Disease and mass mobilization for support for the newborn screening policy.

“Strengthening supportive supervision, monitoring and evaluation.”

“Institutionalise early identification of cases through universal newborn screening at all levels of care.”

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

Ehanire said sickle cell disease though endemic in Nigeria is also preventable.

He enjoined Nigerians to make concerted efforts in checking genotype and key into this initiative so that together everyone can halt this epidemic as this will ensure the reduction in the prevalence of sickle cell disease in the country.

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