FIC Report (Abia State) – The First Lady of Abia State and Founder Vicar Hope Foundation, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu has called on the Federal Government to ramp up activities to reduce prevalence of Sickle Cell Disease in the country.
In a statement in Umuahia to mark World Sickle Day, Mrs. Ikpeazu also called on Federal Government to carry out a statistical survey of SCD in the country to get more accurate data that can guide policies and programming to help fight the disease.
She said estimates available in the country show that 150,000 babies are born every year with the disease, and only a small fraction survive beyond their fifth year while others die as adolescents or young adults.
She expressed worry that management and treatment are very expensive and called on the FG to put in place subsidized care for survivors whom she said mostly live below the poverty line.
“Worst hit are families of low income means. Often, money that ought to be spent on education of the children is spent on keeping the SCD child alive. It becomes a huge burden on everyone within the circle: parents, siblings and the survivor alike. When you also consider the pain of illness and the trauma, it is just something you cannot wish on anybody” she said.
“Over the last 6 years, my Foundation has put in place very strong structures that support SCD survivors, provide subsidised care and counselling, instigated the State government to make laws that helps reduce disease prevalence and teach about SCD in school curriculums in the state.
“Sickle Cell Disease should not be seen as an African problem as research has shown that more and more mixed races are carriers of the sickle cell gene. The world must begin to pay attention. International donors and health agencies must give increasing attention to the disease.
“My Foundation is constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate with like minded organizations and individuals in this regard.
Maximizing opportunities for class action to eliminate sickle cell disease is important. Collaboration is critical.”
“On a regular basis since 2017, we conduct free medical care, counseling, free drug distribution and free genotype testing.
“We have the blood and genotype identification law Abia State passed in 2018 as at now is one of our best arms in a coordinated fight of the disease. I think we are a step ahead of Federal government in disease prevention. so I call on the Federal Government health authorities to come and see what we are doing in Abia and emulate us.”
“Sickle cell disease is very difficult to cure. It can only be managed when patient and caregivers are very careful with their health. It is really a story of pain and loss. But the comforting part of it all is that it can be avoided if we take a little extra care to know our status,” she added.
“VICAR HOPE FOUNDATION and our partners are totally committed to providing relief through our medical facilities, sensitization and counseling. We have instated a telehealth facility that enable survivors in hard to reach rural areas to get access to medical care by dialing a Doctor free of charge. We have three sickle cell care centres run by the Foundation in Aba, Ohafia and Umuahia representing the three Geopolitical Zones. Our dream is to assist government to place a centre in each Local Government Area and Ward and have the impact reach the grassroots”.