Chairman, Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (SCFN), Professor Olu Akinyanju has said that the bane of sickle cell programming in Africa is the paucity of funds allocated to the health sector.

download (1)He stated this recently at Closing/Certificate Award Ceremony of the 17th Genetic Counselling Training Course on Sickle Cell Disorder in conjunction with MTN Foundation at the National Sickle Cell Centre, Lagos.

According to Professor Akinyanju, money is needed for research, capacity building, for equipment and for programmes, particularly for supporting the poorer citizens.

“America, by allocating millions of dollars to sickle cell disorder from 1972, has increased the average life expectancy of its citizens with sickle cell anaemia from 7 years in 1974 to about 60 years in 2012. In fact, all the modern interventions we now have for improving the health and longevity of Nigerians with sickle cell anaemia were introduced from research carried out in the United States of America.

“It is now established that with continual research, sickle cell can be converted from a deadly childhood disorder some decades ago, to a disorder that, like hypertension, can be compatible with a normal quality and duration of life.

Speaking further, Akinyanju said, capacity building for the management and control of sickle cell disorder is a crucial goal of the Sickle Cell Foundation and genetic counselling has been widely identified as the most cost effective intervention for initiating sickle cell programming, particularly in resource poor countries.

On the essence of genetic counselling, he said it is for persons who have genetic disorders or are their significant relatives or who themselves, are healthy carriers of genetic disorders.

Reeling out the roles of a genetic counsellor, he said a genetic counsellor is to ensure that his clients (affected persons, their parents/carriers or healthy carriers) are provided with all the information necessary to assist them understand and/or cope with sickle cell disorder, thus assuring that these clients can make informed decisions on any course of action including marriage.

“Trained counsellors also help form and run support and advocacy associations such as Sickle Cell Clubs and promote the development of dedicated Sickle Cell Clinics and other beneficial facilities in their communities.”

Speaking with Daily Times, one of the trained genetic counsellor, Dr Motunrayo Adekunle? of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, (LASUTH), Ikeja, said, the need for more research on genetic disorders cannot be over-emphasized as Nigeria has the highest burden of the disorder.

Dr Adekunle said, “There is need for more research on genetic disorders because Nigeria has the highest burden of the disorder and surprisingly most of the researches we have been using to manage the people who have sickle cell anaemia come from oversea and this is our own disease.

“So there is actually need for more research on genetic counselling especially when it comes to sickle cell disorder.”

In his address, Director MTN Foundation, Mr Dennis Okoro said, “For us at the MTN Foundation, this graduation is another milestone in our collective efforts to provide a bulwark against the scourge of sickle cell disorder in our society. Indeed, with today’s ceremony, the MTN Foundation has trained a total od 336 sickle cell counsellors nationwide.”

Mr Okoro said the MTN Foundation supports sickle cell clinics in Lagos, Edo, Delta and Kano States by providing free drugs and counselling services.

“So far, over 7730 people have benefited from the services provided by these clinics.”

He said, “I am sure you will be glad to know that MTN Foundation’s interventions in the health sector are not limited to sickle cell alone. Other notable projects under this portfolio include the MTF Medical Support Project (MSP), the annual MTNF Community Health Screening Project, the MTNF Yello Doctor Mobile Medical Intervention Scheme (MTNF Y’ello Doctor Project) and MTNF Eyesight Restoration Intervention Scheme (MTNF EyeRIS project).

Sickle Cell is a disorder that affects the red blood cells and is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern. This means that a hild will not inherit the disease unless both parents pass down a defective copy are carriers.

Prevention of the sickle cell disorder through carrier identification, genetic counselling, and prenatal diagnosis disgnosis remains the best measure to stem the tide of the scourge, Okoro said.

Sickle cell disorder is by far the commonest inherited disorder in the world and three quarters of cases occur in Africa.

In Nigeria, it affects two out of every hundred children born.

In sheer numbers, Nigeria has the largest burden of sickle cell?disorder (SCD) in the whole world. Carriers of the sickle cell gene (Hb AS) have,?over the past centuries, flourished and multiplied in tropical sub-Saharan Africa
because their carrier status protected them from succumbing to the deadly
falciparum malaria prevalent in the Region.


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