Declare Sickle Cell Disease Public Health Issue, Group Urges FG

To reduce sickle cell to the minimum in Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation, Dotun Oladipupo Foundation, has charged the Federal Government to consider it as a public health issue.

President of the foundation, Dotun Oladipupo, made this call on Tuesday, during an outreach organised by the foundation for patients of sickle cell disease at the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Oladipupo said declaring sickle cell disease as a public health issue would encourage governments at all levels to pay attention to the carriers of the disease in terms of opportunities and funding.

“Considering the status of Nigeria as having the highest cases of sickle cell disease in the world, I think it will be right if the government declares sickle cell disease as a public health issue. This will enable the government to pay attention to the carriers of the disease on issues of opportunities and funding”, he said.

Oladipupo, who doubles as a lecturer at Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, said aside declaring sickle cell as a public health issue, there should be effective legislation to give equal opportunity for sickle cell carriers in job opportunities and political appointments among others.

“Government needs to also ensure that there is effective legislation that will give equal opportunities to sickle cell carriers like other persons without the disease. This legislation will help to prevent issues of discrimination in terms of job opportunities, political appointments, career development and so on because when carriers are carefully catered for, they can reach the peak of their career”, he said.

While appreciating the foundation for the outreach, the Chief Consultant Paediatrician at FMC Abeokuta, Mojisola Ogundeyi, noted that financial burden posed on parents and guardians of sickle cell carriers, who often did not receive support from the government, had been a major challenge facing the treatment of sickle cell patients in Nigeria.

She said: “The major challenge I would say is facing sickle cell patients in Nigeria is support from the government because the financial burden on the parents and relatives is quite much. They (sickle cell patients) have to be on some daily treatment which the government is not supporting and which we do not have much support from members of the public.”

She urged Federal Government to initiate the Universal Health Coverage Programme and provide a health insurance scheme that could alleviate the financial burden on sickle cell caregivers.

“If the Universal Health Coverage can take off and most of the warriors are put under this Health Insurance Scheme, it will take a lot of burden away from the caregivers.”

Also speaking at the event, a genetic counsellor on sickle cell matters at the Federal Medical Centre Abeokuta, Oluwatoyin Erubami, stressed the need for continuous advocacy and public enlightenment to reduce the rate of sickle cell disease in Nigeria.

“It will surprise you that at this age and time, some people are still not aware of sickle cell disease, so for us to help our patients, the advocacy has to be all over the nation. The government has to create awareness so that the populace can be aware that we have an issue about sickle cell. There is no way we can eradicate it in Nigeria but with awareness, we can reduce the cases of sickle cell disease to the minimum.”