The federal government has disclosed that over 150,000 children are born with sickle cell disease in Nigeria annually, majority of whom die before the age of five, while calling for more public awareness about scourge.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mr Linus Awute, stated this yesterday at an event to mark this year’s World Sickle Cell Day in Abuja, saying that carriers usually have no symptoms of the disease but can pass the gene to their offsprings.
He said, “It is estimated that over 40 million Nigerians have the sickle cell trait. Tackling sickle cell disease is an unfinished business of the MDGs and would need to be prioritised in the post-2015 development era.”
Awute explained that the theme for this year’s event, “Control of sickle cell disease in Nigeria at primary health care level,” was carefully chosen in order to draw the attention of stakeholders to the importance of integrating the disease into primary health care as a step towards improving equity in healthcare in order to achieve universal health coverage.
On why government cannot propose legislation barring persons with sickle gene from marrying each other, he said, “Ours is a democracy and you will find that before people talk about marriage, they are already in a relationship. Then love comes in and love is blind. That is why we do want to have that kind of confrontational approach.
“We believe very strongly that people who marry and later begin to see these complications in their children are usually unaware of what would be the associated consequences of that marriage. For such people, if they were aware, the story may be different.
“Awareness creation and sensitisation for us is the veritable tool for the reduction of this type of situation in our population for now. There are lot of people, because they have not been told the complications and the pains the sufferers go through. If they tell them not to marry, they will ask whether you are their God. That is why the type of sensitisation that we are talking about is very important.”
Published: Jun 20, 2015. By Winifred Ogbebo and Victor Okeke
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