Today is world Sickle Cell Day: Call to implement screening of newborn

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ASCC4ER providing childcare

As they joined world to commemorate World Sickle  Cell Day , June 19, Africa Sickle Cell Center For Education and Research (ASCC4ER) has called  on President Julius Maada Bio  through the Minister of Health  and Sanitation to develop a policy  on newborn screening for Sickle cell disorder in Sierra Leone.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Our theme for this year is “Why newborn screening should be a priority in Sierra Leone on sickle cell disorder”?

According to the organization, the burden and global distribution of Sickle cell disease should be a priority worldwide.

“Nevertheless, improving the profile of SCD as a major health problem worldwide including the introduction of newborn screening programmes and the improved provision of even the most basic of medical care, will benefit the greatest number of patients with SCD worldwide,” the organization notes.

The organisations states that Sickle cell disease is one of the most common and fast growing genetic disorder in Sierra Leone. 

“Our CEO Cllr. Prof. Dr.  Augusta Elizabeth Koroma highlighted “During my visit to Sierra Leone in April 2021, I noticed that  this disorder continues to multiply rapidly and growing. It’s about time new born screening is implemented; and if the necessary steps are not taken, Sickle Cell disorder will become the most rampant public health problems in Sierra Leone.  Sickle cell Intervention U.K and ASCC4ER Sierra Leone hosted a psychological event for children suffering from sickle cell disorder.” 

The organization says Sickle cell disease has major social and economic implications for the affected child as well as the family.

Recurrent sickle-cell crises interfere with the patient’s life especially with regard to education, work and psychosocial development.

In Sierra Leone, the prevalence trait of the disease is at 24% similar to the 1 in 4 in other West African States, like Nigeria and Ghana, while 20-45% prevalence trait is found in Sub-Saharan Africa. In countries such as Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria, the prevalence is between 20% and 30% while in some parts of Uganda it is as high as 45%.

Freetown is the capital city of Sierra Leone, a country where infant mortality is one of the biggest in the world. The city is home to  approximately about 2 million people, the vast majority of whom are very poor and among whom the prevalence of sickle cell disease is high. Besides, there are numerous environmental challenges including bacterial infections, malaria and poor nutrition that worsen health outcomes among all children, especially those with sickle cell anemia. This is a public health concern and calls for robust intervention in all of these areas.

PUBLIC HEALTH BURDEN OF SCD — SCD is one of the most common genetic diseases in the world. Over 300,000 babies with SCD are born annually; the majority of these are in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to medical care and public health strategies to decrease mortality and morbidity are not uniformly available  This number is expected to increase to up to 400,000 individuals by 2050 (DeBaun et al, 2017).

Antenatal screening for Sickle cell disorder to a specialist in haematology department is not mandatory in Sierra Leone during pregnancy, and  it is not  offered by the National Healthcare System in Sierra Leone. universal neonatal screening with the main objective of providing early diagnosis and treatment of sickle cell disorder and  to be with a team in  haematology  should be a core focus by the department of health in Sierra Leone. 

The appropriate approach is to incorporate a linked  between antenatal and neonatal screening programme for Sickle cell disorder in Sierra Leone. Sickle Cell Disorder Pregnant women should be assigned in a particular category of  multidisciplinary team of midwives,  obstetricians,  haematologists in a unit that institutes high risk pregancy and a common interest in Sickle Cell disorder. 

“To help the public in making informed choices before conception and during pregnancy.To regulate young babies health through effective identification of affected infants. To maintain top level and accessible care throughout Sierra Leone.To advance broader understanding and awareness sickle cell disorders and the value of  new born screening.”

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