Consortium on Newborn Screening in Africa (CONSA), has called on mothers to go for early sickle cell diagnostic testing to save lives of babies born with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).
Prof. Obiageli Nnodu, the Nigerian National Coordinator of the CONSA, gave the advice at the launch of CONSA in the University of Abuja, Gwagwalada.
Nnodu, who is also the Director, Centre of Excellence for Sickle Cell Disease Research and Training, University of Abuja, said that annually, over 150,000 babies born with sickle cell do not live beyond the age of five.
He attributed the development to lack of access to diagnostic testing and comprehensive care.
According to her, in response to these challenges, the university and the Sickle Cell Support Society of Nigeria have jointly launched screening centres in Abuja and Kaduna state.
“CONSA’s mission is to evaluate the effectiveness of newborn screening and early therapeutic intervention for babies with sickle cell disease in Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia.
“Through the leadership of haematologist and public health officials in these countries, CONSA introduces standard-of-care practices for screening and early intervention therapies.
“Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that can be passed to a child when both parents have the Sickle cell trait.
“These cells do not bend and move easily and can block blood flow to various parts of the body. Individuals with Sickle cell disease suffer from acute pain and may be affected by various other organ complications.
“Due to lack of public knowledge on the cause of SCD and misinformation that can be spread between individuals, there is intense stigma around the disease,” she said.
The coordinator disclosed that newborns would be screened at different points in Abuja and Kaduna, and identified the points to include University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, Town Clinic, Dobi Clinic and Dagiri clinic.
She listed sites in Kaduna to include Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, Yusuf Dantsoho Memorial Hospital, Gwamna Awan Memorial Hospita and Kawo General Hospital.
“As mothers deliver their babies in hospitals or bring them to the clinic for their first vaccines, they will be offered the diagnostic screening.
“Through such interventions, we aim to reduce under-five mortality, support the achievement of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and promote the quality of life for affected persons,” she said.