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Experts call for government policy on sickle cell disease

By Abushedde Angella

Health experts have called for urgent government policy on sickle cell disease in order to cut on the huge number of babies that die before their fifth birthday due to the disease.

Speaking at the second annual sickle cell conference organized by the Uganda Sickle Cell Rescue Fund (UASCRF) at Hotel Africana in Kampala, Professor Russell E. Ware, the Chief Executive Director Cancer and Blood Institute called upon the government to adopt lessons from the United States management of sickle cell disease so as to help children and other sickle cell patients.

“Now is the time to develop the national strategy on sickle cell disease. The new government should adopt the newborn or neonatal sickle cell screening policy so that children with the disease are identified at an early age and given the proper care and treatment,” said Russell.

The conference held under the theme “I am you, Why the Stigma?” attracted over 2000 Ugandans and others from Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi and North America.

UASCRF chairman Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige also called upon government to ensure training of health workers and equipping hospitals with all the drugs to manage sickle cell. UASCRF has so far trained 20 counselors to guide parents on how to handle sticklers.

Vice President, Edward Ssekandi who was the guest speaker reassured Ugandans that the government under the ministry of health would comprehensively support the sickle cell disease management in the country.

Minister of state for Primary Health Care, Sara Opendi said that the ministry of health would scale the diagnosis of sickle cell disease buy opening up more sickle cell clinics to supplement the Mulago sickle cell clinic. “Government has so far opened three more sickle cell clinics in Nsambya, Jinja and Kasana and is currently doing research to update the disease prevalence rates in the country,” said Opendi.

According to the research being done, sickle cell prevalence has been found to be highest in areas with high malaria levels. The north region has the highest sickle cell prevalence at 18.6 per cent.

Dr Manube Deo and Professor Ndugwa Christopher also called upon government to consider including sickle cell children for the pneumococcal vaccine program to save the lives of children with sickle cell who succumb to pneumonia every year.

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