By Hassan Zaggi
An estimated 150,000 children are said to be born with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) annually in Nigeria while about 25 per cent of adult carry the sickle cell gene in the country.
The Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Abdullaziz Yari, revealed this in a statement to mark the year 2020 Sickle Cell Day in Abuja, on Friday.
He further disclosed that about 50– 80% of the estimated 150,000 infants born yearly with SCD in Nigeria die before the age of five years.
According to him: “It is the most prevalent genetic disease in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Afro Region. In many countries of the region which include Nigeria, 10% – 40% of the population carries the sickle-cell gene resulting in estimated SCD prevalence of at least 2%.
“Nigeria has about 25% of her adult population carrying the defective Sickle gene in a carrier state and WHO in 2015 estimated that 2% of all new-borns in Nigeria are affected by sickle cell disease, giving a total of about 150,000 affected children born every year.
“About 50% – 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.”
Mashi disclosed that, in an effort to address the SCD challenge, the federal government has fashioned out some priorities which, he said, included primary prevention; repositioning of the SCD centres; capacity building; integration of SCD care and services into the maternal and child health services especially at the primary and secondary levels of healthcare in Nigeria; establishing a data registry for SCD for the country; enhancing sickle cell disease surveillance; scaling up of advocacy and mass mobilization of communities for SCD across Nigeria including continuous advocacy for access to drugs and diagnostics including local production of Hydroxyurea for SCD and mass mobilization for support for the newborn screening policy.
Other priorities, he said, include strengthening supportive supervision; monitoring and evaluation for SCD interventions and activities; and improving and coordinating SCD research activities in the country.
The Permanent Secretary assured that though, Nigeria has the highest burden of SCD in the world, his ministry is making concerted efforts to reduce the burden through appropriate preventive measures.
“We must all therefore make concerted efforts in knowing our genotype and key into this initiative so that together we can halt this epidemic of SCD in our country,” Mashi said.