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Sickle Cell Day: Experts task govt on free drugs, improved blood banking services

Medical experts have called on the federal government to provide access to free drugs and improved blood banking services to ensure proper care for people with sickle cell anaemia.

A haematologist with the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, BSUTH, Dr Ify Okolie, made this call while speaking with the Abuja Inquirer at an event, organized by the department of Haematology in conjunction with Paediatric department of BSUTH, to mark the 2022 World Sickle Cell Day.

Dr Okolie who noted that those living with sickle cell anaemia are on several routine drugs said, “Let our sickle cell patients have their drugs for free. That is one of the cries we are having. Let them know that they can walk into any government establishment or anywhere they choose, be it private hospitals, let them know they can access these drugs for free.

“Our sicklers are on what we call routine drugs; they are on folic acid, they are on anti malaria drugs. Most of them now are on hydroxy urea, a new drug that is working wonders amongst them. Those drugs are not free. We want government to make them free.

“We want them to also improve our blood banking services. Our patients come down with emergencies and some times, our resuscitating material is blood. so we want them to have access to free and safe blood.”

Dr Okolie who also lamented that some people don’t know they have sickle cell until they start manifesting the disease urged government to also consider providing new born screening facilities for early detection and care.

“Outside, some countries have a policy where every new born is tested for haemoglobin SS, especially those born to people with sickle cell, and those with haemoglobin SS, as young as new borns, are enrolled into sickle cell care programme so that you don’t wait for them to start manifesting the disease.

“Once they start manifesting the disease, it means something has gone wrong. So its better to catch them young with the use of new born screening facilities and ensure that from infancy, they get better medical attention.”

She blamed ignorance, non compliance to medical advice as being responsible for most of the deaths recorded over the years on those living with sickle cell disease saying the department intends to partner with government agencies, development partners, Non Governmental Organizations, NGOs and individuals to sensitive people in schools, villages among other places.

While encouraging those living with the condition to always consult their doctors and adhere strictly to advice she said “We believe that the more we train, educate and teach them, people will behave better and the outcomes will be better.

“Before now, you just feel that most sickle are born to die, so they shouldn’t have purposes, pursuits or plans. Sickle cell is not a death sentence and its not an excuse not to aspire to much in life.”

Earlier, delivering a lecture titled, “Sickle Cell Disorder: The Importance of Self Care,” a consultant haematologist, Professor Olusayo Alao, advised those living with the condition to prioritizes self care by adhering to rules given to them by their doctors.

According to him, they must visit the paediatrician or haematologist regularly, ensure compliance with routine drugs, they must eat healthy food, reduce stress and observe hand washing hygiene to prevent infections.

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