A leading Civil Society Organization has called for a mass awareness on the dangers associated with starting a family before undertaking a sickle cell test.
Isaac Okello, the Executive Director of Raising Hope International, a group that seeks to raise awareness about the sickle cell disease, says that government needs to mount a vigorous campaign especially among the less privileged communities, aimed at curbing the high incidence of the condition.
Okello cited communities such as those living in slums and those living rural areas saying that majority of them are still ignorant about the disease.
Okello says that the government awareness campaign needs to target young people to test themselves for Sickle cell before starting a family so as to limit the number of children who die or suffer life long illnesses and pain arising from the problem.
Okello warns that a big number of children continue to die from the disease largely due to ignorance, and the few who know about it don’t have the money to care for the sicklers.
Okello says most of the parents with children suffering from the sickle cell disease cannot consistently afford to buy the hydroxyurea drug which is used to reduce pain for patients.
Advocating for timely treatment and general management of sickle cell, Raising Hope International re-echoed the significance of members of the public with an intention of getting married to always consider screening for disease before they tie the knot.
Okello says for the country to have the next generation free of sickle cell couples ought to test for sickle cell.
Speaking at a sickle cell’s medical outreach supported by Airtel and ADcare Medical Centre that offered free treatment, screening and consultation, Okello noted that importance of knowing one’s sickle cell status before getting into marriage for better management of the situation.
Okello says that being a non-communicable disease, a few people actually understand the burden of disease.
“So most importantly, potential parents please, not only should you test for HIV, you should know your sickle cell status. It is very very important. Ask yourself before you get married. Are you aspiring to give birth to healthy babies? (then get tested), Okello adds.
“Most of the time pain outweighs the love you may have about the child. The pain you go through, overwhelms you. So if you need to live a healthy life, you need to know your sickle cell status.”
Sickle cell is major cause of death for children under the age of five.
According to the Ministry of of Health, some 33,000 babies are born annually with the disease, out of which, 80% die before the age of 5 years.