Efforts to eliminate Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD) from Abia State has received a major boost as the state government has now integrated the study of the disorder into the Abia State school system.
Wife of the State Governor, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu has been at the vanguard of the campaign to break the cycle of SCD in the state, using the platform of Vicar Hope Foundation(VHF), her pet project.
This ambitious strategy of exposing pupils early enough to the knowledge about SCD is seen as the culmination of the Abia First Lady's relentless campaign to drastically reduce the prevalence of the disease in the state.
Sickle Cell disease is a hereditary ailment that becomes manifest when two persons with mismatched genotypes have babies.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, while flagging off a two-day train the trainer curriculum dissemination workshop for teachers in Umuahia, broke the news of his government's decision to integrate the teaching of SCD into the school curriculum.
Represented by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Chris Ezem, the governor said his government was committed to generating as much awareness as possible about the disease so that the populace can make informed decisions about life choices and marriage partners.
He said that his administration has already made a legislation making it compulsory for every citizen in the state to undertake genotype and blood group test and have the results inscribed on their identity cards.
Ikpeazu further stated that institutions and marriage registries that wed or join couples without first demanding genotype test results risked being fined or closed as provided in the legislation.
He commended the Abia First Lady, Dr Nkechi Ikpeazu for driving the effort and her Vicar Hope Foundation, which facilitated the workshops, for its advocacy and technical support to Abia State government that has led to measurable successes in the fight against sickle cell disease in the state.
Governor Ikpeazu therefore charged teachers to ensure they effectively disseminate information to school children and communities while observing the required caution in message development and delivery.
Mrs. Ikpeazu, who is the President of Vicar Hope Foundation, said the interventions made by the foundation were geared towards reversing the onslaught of the hereditary disease.
The First Lady, who was represented by the Administrator of the foundation, Dr Edith Nwosu, noted that the foundation had set up two modern sickle cell care hospitals in the state to complement the sickle cell care focal desks established by the state government in all the 17 local governments of Abia.
She noted that an estimated 150,000 babies are born each year with sickle cell anaemia and most of the babies die before they are five years old while those who survive the illness beyond age five, become a financial and emotional burden on families and caregivers as they struggle to keep the children from dying.
Mrs Ikpeazu said presently the only cure for SCD is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, adding that the process is very expensive hence the best approach remains for people seeking to have babies to ensure they have matching genotypes.
The Abia Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Osuji, represented by Dr Sam Ohaeri, explained that the 17 Sickle Cell focal offices set up in the local governments were meant to assist with drug distribution and case management in rural areas.
He further stated that a Sickle Cell Desk office has been set up by the Ministry of Health, manned by a qualified officer, who is helping to guide government policies and programmes in relation to SCD, while also doing disease surveillance.
In his remarks the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Sir Princewill Eze Ajuzie assured that teachers would imbibe the knowledge and disseminate the information appropriately through the school system.