Kaduna – An NGO, The Youth Challenge, on Monday urged stakeholders in the health sector to create more awareness on sickle cell disease among secondary school students.
The organisation’s Executive Director, Andy Bako, made the appeal during a sensitisation programme for students in Kaduna as part of activities to mark the World Sickle Cell Disease Day.
The World Sickle Anaemia Day is marked every June 19.
Bako said that knowledge about the disease among youths in secondary schools could play an important role in influencing youths’ pre-marital attitude.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme for this year’s campaign is “Bone Marrow Transplant: Cure and Possibilities for Sickle Cell Disorders’’.
“This is to draw attention to the fact that there is a cure for sickle cell anaemia and that sickle cell patients can also live normal, pain-free lives like people who are AA or AS.
“That is living without frequent visits to the hospital and stigmatisation associated with the disorder.
“While bone marrow transplant promises cure for sickle anaemia, it should be noted that the technology is still far off the shores of Nigeria.
“And even if it is here, it will cost so high that the average Nigerian cannot afford it,’’ Bako said.
He said there was the need to raise awareness about the disease, especially among students in secondary institutions as part of the contributions to curb and control the scourge.
“Secondary school students are usually in relationships that may eventually lead to marriage in future.
“So, the issue of pre-marital screening may be of concern as it may affect existing knowledge and attitude to sickle cell disease.’’
Bako said that government should mainstream sickle cell disease in health clubs in schools.
He added that identity cards of students should contain their genotype and blood group.
The executive director urged government to provide facilities in hospitals to ensure early diagnosis and create mass awareness using the media.
According to him, sickle cell is the most common public health problem in African countries.
“About 25 per cent of Nigerians carry the defective gene which is passed to their offspring and about three per cent of children are born with the serious disorder,’’ he said.
He added that it was better to prevent the disease by running a test to know one’s genotype before engaging in any form of serious relationship.
“We can contribute to global health by testing our genotypes before marriage and make decisions that will guarantee our children’s health.
“We must bear in mind that it is the child’s right to start life without any form of life threatening but preventable diseases,’’ Bako said.
He urged development partners to direct funding to the control of sickle cell anaemia.
NAN reports that free sickle cell disease test was conducted for students at the event as part of this year’s celebration. (NAN)