SICKLE cell patients have every reason to rejoice following the announcement that the Muhimbili National Hospital sickle cell centre will offer service from Monday to Friday.
Head of Physical Non Communicable Disease in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ms Sarah Maongezi, said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the children with the disease can have a life expectance of up to 42 years if the disease is diagnosed early enough and treatment is offered on time.
"The government pledges its support to improve healthcare to Sickle Cell Disease by supporting our health facilities such as Muhimili National Hospital and working with all stakeholders to raise awareness about the burden of Sickle Cell Disease in the country," said Ms Maongezi.
She said the government has included Sickle Cell Disease on the list of priority diseases in Non-Communicable Disease Strategy, saying the strategy allows for dissemination of information to educate various stakeholders including patients, health providers and the public.
The centre will also serve as a clinical research and training centre and will be a referral for patients from all over the country. Tanzania ranks 4th in the world with the highest number of sickle cell disease birth a year up to 11,000 cases after Nigeria, India and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
"We are also working through the East African community to develop a regional strategy for Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi," she said. She commended the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of Tanzania for working with health institutions to strengthen the health service for the people with the disease.
In his remarks, the Canadian Ambassador, Alexandre Lévêque, said the citizens must be made aware of the disease and that the hospitals across the country must be able to deliver the screening and provide follow up care.
"The High Commission of Canada through its Canada Fund for Local Initiative is providing the fund to the foundation to create publicity and information material designed to raise awareness of the disease," said the ambassador. Canada has donated 20m/- to the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of Tanzania to facilitate a Public Awareness Campaign geared to curb the mortality rate of children with the disease.
Mr Lévêque noted that the disease is preventable through a number of relatively simple measures including early diagnosis through newborn screening and the provision of appropriate medical care involving prevention of infection and quick intervention if acute symptoms develop. The campaign titled 'Improving Child Survival by Strengthening Healthcare for Sickle Cell Disease' would be carried out countrywide.