African health ministers today launched a campaign to raise awareness, strengthen prevention and help to curb the incidence of sickle cell disease, one of the most common but neglected diseases in the region.
More than 66% of the 120 million people affected by sickle cell disease live in Africa. Every day in Africa, approximately 1,000 children are born with the disease, making it the most common genetically acquired disease in the region. More than half of these children will die before the age of five, usually from infection or severe anemia.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that shortens the survival of red blood cells, causing an anemia often called sickle cell disease. Low oxygen levels in the blood and blocked blood vessels in people with sickle cell disease can cause severe pain in the back, chest, arms, and legs, as well as severe bacterial infections.
In the African region, 38,403 deaths from sickle cell disease were recorded in 2019, a 26% increase since 2000. Many public health facilities in the region lack services for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of sickle cell disease. Insufficient staffing and lack of services in lower level health facilities also hinders effective response to the disease.
The campaign, which was launched as a side event for sickle cell disease advocacy during the 72nd meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa, the region’s main health meeting, aims to strengthen political will and participation, as well as financial resources for prevention and control of sickle cell anemia throughout the region. He also seeks to increase public awareness of the disease in schools, communities, health facilities and the media, and advocates for the strengthening of health systems to ensure quality and uninterrupted services and equal access to medicines and innovative tools.
“Most African countries lack the necessary resources to provide comprehensive care to people with sickle cell disease, despite the availability of proven cost-effective interventions for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of the disease,” said Dr Matshidisa Moeti, WHO Regional Director. . Africa. “We need to bring attention to this disease and help improve the quality of life for those living with it.”
Because of the lack of newborn screening and surveillance programs in the entire region, there is a lack of accurate and reliable data on this disease. In addition, most national population-based surveys do not collect data on sickle cell disease. These data gaps have adversely affected the prioritization and allocation of resources to the disease.
In addition to its public health impact, sickle cell disease imposes numerous economic and social costs on sufferers and their families and can interfere with many aspects of patients’ lives, including education, employment, mental and social well-being and development.
“We can no longer ignore the significant burden caused by sickle cell disease,” said Dr. Moetti. “We must do more to improve access to treatment and care, including counseling and newborn screening, ensuring that programs are decentralized and integrated with community and primary care services.”
Dr. Moeti stressed the need for greater investment and strengthened collaboration and partnership to help stem the rise in sickle cell disease in Africa.
In addition to WHO, the new campaign is supported by partners including the World Bank, the US Department of Health and Welfare, the Novartis Foundation, Global Blood Therapeutics and Sickle in Africa.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the WHO Regional Office for Africa.
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