Today is world Sickle Cell Day and Nigerians suffering from the disease have lamented the high cost of managing the illness, stigma they face from family and other people, as well as general neglect of their plight by government and other stakeholders.
Nigeria has the highest burden of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) in the world and is also the top sickle cell endemic country in Africa.
Over 40 million Nigerians suffer from the disease according to experts.
Sickle Cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects a person’s red blood cells. It affects haemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells throughout the body.
The disorder causes normal round and flexible blood cells to become stiff and sickle shaped, which in turn stops the blood cells and the oxygen they carry from moving freely around the body.
According to Prof Obiageli Nnodu, a haematologist and Nigerian National Coordinator of Consortium on Newborn Screening in Africa (CONSA), an estimated 150,000 babies in Nigeria are born with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) annually.
Nnodu, who is also the Director Centre of Excellence for Sickle Cell Disease Research and Training, University of Abuja, said many of them do not live past the age of five because of lack of access to diagnostic testing and comprehensive care.