Nigeria Has Highest Prevalent Rate of Sickle Cell Worldwide, Says Govt

World Sickle Cell Day
24 June 2021

Abuja — The federal government has said Nigeria currently ranks highest in rate of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) in the whole world ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo and India.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said the country has an estimated 25 percent of her adult population being carriers of defective S-gene.

Sickle Cell Disease is a genetic (hereditary) disorder that occurs when an individual has inherited two mutant (abnormal) haemoglobin (Hb) genes from both parents, at least one of which is HbS and the resulting symptoms and signs are due to abnormality in the shape of red blood cells.

In sickle cell disease, red blood cells are deformed (taken the shape of "sickle"), rigid and fragile and by reason of this being unable to sufficiently carry out their normal functions, notably oxygen delivery.

Ehanire said that available record showed that Sickle Cell Disease affects nearly 100 million people in the world and is also responsible for over 50 per cent of deaths in those with the most severe form of the disease (Hb SS).

The Minister said that Sickle Cell is the most prevalent genetic disease in the WHO African region, adding that in many African countries including Nigeria, 10per cent-40 per cent of the population carries the sickle-cell gene resulting in estimated Sickle Cell Disease prevalence of at least two per cent.

In a statement to commemorate the 2021 World Sickle Cell Day, Ehanire said estimated 150,000 affected children are born every year in Nigeria.

"Nigeria currently has the highest burden of Sickle Cell Disease in the whole World ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo and India, with an estimated 25 per cent of her adult population being carriers of defective S-gene.

"WHO in 2015 estimated that two per cent of new-borns in Nigeria are affected by sickle cell anaemia, giving a total of about 150,000 affected children born every year. About 50 per cent-80 per cent of the estimated 150,000 infants born yearly with SCD in Nigeria die before the age of five years and those that manage to survive suffer end-organs damage which shortens their lifespan including stroke," he said.

According to Ehanire, "the situation in the region also indicates that national policies and plans are inadequate; appropriate facilities and trained personnel are scarce; adequate diagnostic tools and treatment are insufficient for the prevention and control of the disease".

The minister noted that Sickle Cell Disease is among the top five non-communicable diseases (NCDs) significantly contributing to maternal, neonatal, infant and child disability, morbidity and mortality which may negatively undermine the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 3 and 4.

Ehanire said the commemoration of the day provided a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the increasing burden of the disease and to eliminate the negative notion associated with it as well as building synergy with civil society organisations, international institutions and development partners towards the prevention, control and management SCD in Nigeria.

In recognition of the huge burden of SCD

in Nigeria, the minister said government has instituted several strategic Interventions to address the challenges of the disease through the Federal Ministry of Health.

He said some of the strategic interventions included: six centres of excellence for the control and management of SCD were established across Nigeria one in each geo-political zones with each equipped with necessary facilities and staff to serve as a hub for newborn screening.

National guidelines for the prevention, control and management of Sickle Cell Disease.

Other government Interventions include; the establishment of the Multi-sectorial Action Program (MSAP) Technical Committee involving different MDAs in addressing the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Nigeria, advocacy and mass mobilisation for awareness creation on SCD and the importance of genetic counselling.

"The Federal Ministry of Health ongoing validation study for the use of Point of Care Screening Test (POCT) kit for early identification and diagnosis of Sickle Cell Disease in of new-born, children and adult at all levels of care in Nigeria.

"Harmonisation of the various Sickle Cell Disease Bills pending at the National Assembly to increase Government attention for the prevention, control and management of SCD in the country within the framework of Non-Communicable Diseases control programme as part of UN-WHO strategy for the prevention, control and management of SCD.

"Government current plan for the immediate future includes the revitalisation and re-positioning of the six zonal Sickle Cell Disease centres for improved Sickle Cell Disease service delivery and access to care for those living with the disease."

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