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Experts seek free treatment for sickle cell patients

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Medical experts have tasked the National Assembly to make laws that can guarantee free treatment for sickle cell children under the age of five.

Speaking at the launch of Muyiwa Talabi Exchange Blood Transfusion (EBT) Unit, at the National Sickle Cell Centre, Lagos, Director/Chief Executive Officer, Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (SCFN), Dr. Annette Akinsete, noted that the country has the highest burden of sickle cell disorder in the world.

She explained that about 150,000 babies are born every year in Nigeria, out of which 100,000 die before the age of five.

“When we talk about the burden, we also talk about those that have the trait that can pass the gene to the offspring without actually suffering the condition, about 50 million Nigerians have the sickle cell traits, that is, they are carriers of the sickle cell disorder without actually having the diseases but that is a pool of potential persons that can give to their children. It is part of the burden.”

Akinsete said sickle cell disorder is a global disease adding the need to increase awareness about the condition and what should be done about the condition.

The director stated that the government is doing their best though it is not enough, the reason why Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like the SCFN come in to fill that gap.

Similarly, consultant haematologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and supervising consultant, SCFN, Dr. Titi Adeyemo, said it is important to manage the complications of the sickle cell disease so that patients could live long.

According to her, “How do we manage these complications and prevent these pains from happening. This is how and where blood transfusion comes in. when the patients are short of red cells, that means their body does not have enough red cells to carry oxygen and we know the importance of oxygen, so we have to transfuse red cells that would be able to deliver oxygen to the various parts o the body.”

She said Blood transfusion is a very important treatment modality for a sickle cell patient.

“We can do what is called top-up transfusion or exchange transfusion. In exchange transfusion, we take out their own sickle cell and transfuse them haemoglobin AA. The exchange transfusion is more effective than the top up,” she added.

Also, Chairman, SCFN, Prof. Olu Akinyanju, said the centre is the first comprehensive centre of its kind in Africa and it is solely dedicated to the management and control of sickle cell disorder.

He mentioned that EBT helps to improve oxygen delivery and clinical condition more efficiently than simple transfusion by simultaneously replacing abnormal patient red blood cells.

Akinyanju said the EBT equipment being commissioned is beneficial in the treatment or prevention of life-threatening and other manifestation of sickle cell disorder.

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