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UGANDAN | Government Drafting Law on Tissue and Organ Transplant

Cecilia Okoth & Jacquiline Emodek

The Ugandan government is drafting a law that will incorporate tissue and organ transplant in Uganda. Speaking at the 3rd annual sickle cell conference held at Hotel Africana Friday, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda confirmed that plans are under way to have transplant centres that will enable treatment of the sickle-cell disease.

The sickle-cell disease, also known as sickle-cell anaemia and drepanocytosis, is a hereditary blood disorder. “Sickle-cell disease is a serious and common problem in the country and we have quite many patients suffering from the disease,” said Rugunda.

“However when the transplantation plans are complete, treatment of this nature will be possible.” Health Minister Elioda Tumwesigye revealed that President Yoweri Museveni recently attracted an investor from Italy to construct an international hospital in Lubowa that will be ready by August 2017.

The health facility will carry out transplants of bone marrows, kidneys, livers and hearts. Government is in talks with the board of Mulago national referral hospital to include a transplant centre, he added.

“The cure of the disease is achievable,” Tumwesigye said, adding that government has come out to scale up control programmes on the sickle-cell disease. A recent survey dubbed: Uganda Sickle Survey Results and Neonatal Screening Program by Dr. Charles Kiyaga, the national sickle-cell coordinator for the health ministry indicates that 49 of the 112 districts have a sickle-cell trait.

According to Dr. Deogratious Munume, a pediatrician at the sickle-cell clinic in Mulago hospital, 2000 Ugandans are born annually with the disease and the center receives about 250 patients weekly. Dr. Machiele van den Akker, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist from UZ Brussels in Belgium, said bone marrow transplants have a high success rate in matched siblings, although the progress is a rigorous one.

“To begin with, one has to get medication to destroy the sick bone marrow to prepare the body for a new one and this can cause infertility, among other side effects,” he explained. Akker is part of a team of four visiting doctors and nurses from Belgium and the United States of America that screened the mammoth crowd that turned up for the conference.

The event was organized by Uganda-American Sickle-Cell Rescue Fund in commemoration of the World Sickle Cell Day.

Published: Jun 20, 2015. By Cecilia Okoth & Jacquiline Emodek

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