Dr Aliyu Usman, Executive Director, Sickle Cell Disease Eradication Initiative (SCDEI), a Community Based Organisation in Yobe, has expressed concern at the current 32.6 per cent prevalence rate of sickle cell in the state.
Usman told newsmen in Damaturu on Monday that the rate, sourced from the 2013 Sickle Cell survey, was the highest among the 36 states of the federation.
He, however, said the disease could be tackled with screening of newborn babies, awareness campaigns and premarital genotype counseling and testing.
The executive director said the organisation would soon conduct free genotype test across the 17 local government areas of the state to assist people in making right marital choices.
Usman said sickle cell was a hereditary disease that could be contracted through cross breeding of `AS’ and `AS’ genotypes.
He said the organisation was working in collaboration with the state government, Non-governmental organisations and community leaders in creating awareness on the dangers of the disease and measures to prevent it.
He said the SCDEI had developed a strategic plan on building the capacity of health educators, improving patients care and empowering families and caregivers with vocational skills and financial literacy support in the next five years.
“To achieve this goal, implementation strategy of SCDEI activities shall be carried out in a systematic manner using responsible speed.
“Our intervention shall be based on researched facts and information, Organisation Capacity Assessment (OCA), and Sickle Cell Disease control programmes.
“Our organisation’s development strategy in strengthening health educators shall focus on ensuring that they have the required competencies, systems and resource mobilisation strategies to deliver premarital genotype counselling and testing.
“The improved sickle cell disease patients’ care shall focus on the provision of accessible blood bank and transfusion services and affordable or free treatment services through policy advocacy and strategic partnerships with key stakeholders.
“The livelihood strategy shall also focus on the provision of sustainable vocational skills, entrepreneurship skills and enhance accessibility to credit and financial support to the family and caregivers,” he said.
He called on governments at all levels, the media and community leaders to help in taking the campaign against sickle cell to the grassroots.
“Many people did not believe in the existence of sickle cell.
“Due to lack of awareness among both the local health policymakers and the public, sickle cell is by far the commonest inherited disorder in the world with 75 per cent of cases occurring in Africa.
“Nigeria contributes about half of the estimated 300,000 newborns with Sickle cell disorder annually.
“This causes immense suffering to patients, their families and caregivers,” he said.