About 15,000 babies are born annually with sickle cell disease in the country.

Out of the number, 50 to 80 per cent die before attaining age five, a situation if not properly checked could deprive the nation of her future national assets.

Mr Kofi Tenkorang, Chief Executive Officer of Africa Sickle Cell Watch, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) disclosed this at this year’s Sickle Cell Day celebration at Kwabenya in Accra on Saturday.

The Day set aside by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is celebrated on June 19 to create an awareness on the dangers of the disease.

He said this happened because carriers of the sickle cell genes were ignorant about the disease and only found out when their children were diagnosed with the disease.

The Chief Executive Officer said sickle cell was the most commonly inherited blood disease in the world and affected people living in countries surrounding the Meditterenean Sea.

He said parents who were both ‘AS’ could give birth to children who had normal blood ‘AA’, ‘AS’ or ‘SS’ , adding that there were four other types of the disease but ‘SS’ was the most common type in the country.

Mr Tenkorang said people who carried a genetic trait often carried  abnormal gene and a normal version  of the same gene, one from each parent and in many conditions ‘you need double dose of the genes from both parents before a disease can manifest’.

He said a different protein called haemoglobin was made in the red cells of the people with the disease, adding that they made a slightly different form of the protein that carried oxygen in the body which is called the sickle haemoglobin.

Mr Tenkorang said when the sickle haemoglobin was not carrying the oxygen it behaved differently and forced the red blood cells to ‘squeeze’ through small blood vessels to become stiff and very sticky and could block the flow of blood in the body.

‘When the highly fatal disease is diagnosed early parents can be advised on how to take care of their children to be able to survive’, He added.

The occasion was used to donate blood to stock the Ridge Hospital Blood Bank.

GNA