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Anambra raises pulse of sickle cell eradication

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THE 10th World Sickle Cell Day was celebrated yesterday all over the globe. On 22 December 2008, the United Nations general assembly adopted a resolution that recognizes sickle cell disease as a public health problem and one of the world’s foremost genetic diseases.

This resolution calls for members to raise awareness of sickle cell on June 19th of each year at national and international level.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Nigeria alone accounts for more than 100,000 births of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) out of the 300,000 babies born with the sickle cell disease every year globally.

To tackle this menace in Anambra State, a bill has been passed by lawmakers to stop cases of sickle cell anemia in the state. The law bans marriages without sickle cell-free certificate – Going further, anybody who flouts this,  would be liable on conviction, to the fine of N200,000 or imprisonment for three years, or both.

To put an end to the rising cases of sickle cell anemia, the state House of Assembly has passed a bill into law that there would not be any marriage in the state without the couple possessing a certificate declaring them free from sickle cell anemia. According to the press release made available to journalists,  the bill titled ‘Sickle Cell Disease Control And Eradication Repeal Bill’, seeks to eradicate sickle cell anemia in the state.

According to the release, the bill which was sponsored by the member representing Anaocha 11 constituency, Chief Charles Ezeani states, “No parent, guardian or group of persons shall give out a maiden in marriage without verification of a qualified sickle cell disease prevention certificate”.

Furthermore, the bill also bans religious bodies from conducting marriages without the certificate and anybody who contravened the law would be liable on conviction, to the fine of N200,000 or imprisonment for three years, or both. According to the bill, there will be a monitoring team.

Meanwhile, National Coordinator of people living with sickle cell anemia, Aisha Edwards,   commended the lawmakers for enacting the law. She said that the law would protect sickle cell patients from all forms of discrimination and marginalization in the state.

Here are a few things you should know about the most popular genetic disease.

SCD is hereditory and not communicable or transferrable from one patient to another person.

It causes normal round and flexible blood cells to become stiff and sickle-shaped.

It stops the blood cells, and the oxygen from being able to move freely around the body and causes pain, resulting in episodes of severe pain.

Over time, people with sickle cell can experience damage to organs such as the liver, kidney, lungs, heart and spleen. These damages often times results in death.

Treatment of sickle cell-mostly focuses on preventing and treating complications with strong painkillers such as morphine to control the pain and not to cure the disease.

People with sickle cell are also at risk of complications stroke, acute chest syndrome, blindness, bone damage and priapism (a persistent, painful erection of the penis).

This genetic health problem poses the risk of premature child death. It can be controlled with the strategy of early detection, public awareness and effective partnership among countries.

Children with SCD are at increased risk for stroke, the risk is highest between the ages of 2 and 16.

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