25% of Nigerians Carry Sickle Cell Gene—Expert

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Vice-Chairman of Sickle cell Support Society of Nigeria (SCSSN), Prof Obiageli Nnodu, has disclosed that about 3.6 million Nigerians are affected by the sickle cell disease, representing 2 percent of the country’s population.

Professor Nnodu made this disclosure in an interview at the just concluded conference organised by SCSSN in support of Pfizer in Enugu last week.

Professor Nnodu, who is also an authority in Haematology and Blood Transfusion, said apart from those directly affected, 25 percent of Nigerians are carrying the gene and therefore noted that there’s every need to tackle its prevalence.

She said Sickle Cell Support Society of Nigeria is an umbrella body that brings together professionals, advocates, and other interested parties both within the country and in diaspora to tackle different aspects of Sickle Cell disease.

The Professor said SCSSN has a special focus on the coordination of different groups, bodies and organisations working on sickle cell disease who hitherto done their programmes in an uncoordinated manner.

The SCSSN Vice-Chairman called the Ministry of Education to include sickle cell education in the country’s school curriculum, so that from primary level children would have the necessary knowledge about sickle cell disease and can as well educate their parents who are not exposed to such health problem.

She said that since 2010, when the umbrella body came into operation, the activities of groups and bodies working on sickle cell have received a boost through coordination.

According to her, “Before 2010 many people were working on sickle cell, they were individualised and uncoordinated but this umbrella body has brought everyone together for effective and coordinated work.”

“We have achieved many goals within the period which include a handbook on sickle cell that is available in our website, but most importantly is the use of instant sickle cell kit which we subjected to clinical evaluation to ensure it is effective in finding the gene status of persons.

“We have worked with the Federal Ministry of health to develop uniform guidelines and strategic planning for efficient delivery of Sickle Cell Programmes among others,” she said further.

Professor of Hematology at the Muhumbili University of Tanzania, Lucio Luzzatto, who was the keynote speaker, echoed sentiments shared by others that government must pass a bill on sickle cell control and management to better insure the life of the people living with the disease.

On his part, Medical Director of Pfizer, Dr Kodjo Soroh, submitted that the high death rate of sickle cell disorder can be prevented through proper management and increased disease awareness programmes in rural areas.

He said there is no way government can better manage the situation without making policies that will guarantee treatment for people with the disease.

The Medical Director stressed that Pfizer will continue to support activities on how policies can be improved to adequately impact on Sickle cell patients.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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