World Sickle Cell Day was commenced in 2008 by the United Nations General Assembly aiming at increased sensitization and awareness about the disease, a day that is commemorated on June 19th each year.
This year’s initiative is themed screen and care for sickle cell diseases; Tambua hali yako, seeking to roll out a policy on infant screening for sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes “sickle” shaped red blood cells that can stick together, blocking blood flow and oxygen from reaching all parts of the body.
This comes upon indication by reports that at least 240,000 children in Africa are born with Sickle Cell Disease(SCD) among whom 14,000 are born in Kenya.
Due to the recurrent pain and complications caused by the disease, about 50%-80% of the children born with this disease don’t manage to live past the age of five years old.
Effects of the disease and its interference with the patient’s life are dire in the education, employment, and psychological development of the person.
The ministry of health and its partners emphasize the need and urgency for screening of SCD in parents and infants even if they look healthy. Since when cases are left undetected and untreated, SCD can lead to severe health problems and even death, early in childhood.
Dr. Rashid Aman, health chief administrative secretary, commended the National Strategy for prevention and control of NCD 2015-2020 as it has included SCD in its’ scope.
Giving strategic directions towards reduction of burden shelved on patients of SCD through improving health systems, effective policy, and legislative measures, improving health information and research, and strengthening health promotion as well as social mobilization.
Emphasis on the health sector to provide antibiotics and pain relief medicines within the Universal Healthcare coverage as KEMSA avails medicines for the management of sickle cell disease as the ministry aims at providing health products and technologies to manage SCD.
The commemoration of World Sickle Cell Day is aimed at; increasing awareness of sickle cell diseases among the general public, having the priority accorded to sickle cell management by policymakers at the national and county levels and among partners and sensitizing relevant stakeholders on sickle cell management to reduce issues of stigma.