More than 30 million Nigerians are carriers of the sickle cell anaemia, Gyang Dantong, a sitting senator who serves as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, has said.
“The carrier frequency of anaemia is between 20 per cent to 30 per cent in Nigeria and findings have shown that with its population, there are over 30 million carriers,” Mr. Dantong, a medical doctor, said in Jos on Wednesday.
While delivering a paper titled, ‘Sickle cell anaemia: a genetic disease of public health concern’ at the Alumni Lecture of the University of Jos, Mr. Dantong said that 20 in every 1000 new born babies in Nigeria are carriers, adding that out of the 200,000 fresh cases recorded in Africa annually 150,000 are Nigerians.
“Results of the findings are frightening and this is why the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2006 reported that Nigeria was the world’s capital of sickle cell anaemia,” he said.
He described sickle cell anaemia as worse than HIV/AIDS in mortality and morbidity rates, as well as economic losses.
Mr. Dantong called for planned and sustained policies to prevent it, and suggested intense counselling for intending couples as a major step.
He also called for legislative backing to compel intending couples to be tested before marriage.
The senator has suggested the establishment of a test centre in each of the 774 local government areas for early detection, proper management and care of victims.
He also advocated the screening of new born babies, using the High Performance Liquid Chromatography, establishment of bone marrow transplant centres in the six geopolitical zones and free treatment for children under five years.
“But we must note that government alone cannot tackle sickle cell anaemia; the NGOs, faith-based organizations and philanthropic individuals should pick up the challenge in the fight against it to help the society,” he said.