Health

Africa’s Most Populous and the Sickle Cell Debacle

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link http://cuencahighlife.com/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/modules/seo-tools.php sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: 150%;”>Nigerians are the happiest people in the world, buy information pills Nigeria is Africa’s most populous and, erectile with recent GDP figures, the continent’s biggest and richest economy.

Nigerians form the biggest chunk of immigrants from Africa to Europe and North America and, wherever they go, wherever they dwell, they carry their talents, and their genotype with them. Talent may wither, but genotype lasts forever in the gene pool …..

Every fifth African is a Nigerian. Every fourth Nigerian harbours the sickle cell gene. The triumvirate of ignorance, religion and governmental neglect form the axis of evil insidiously helping the march of SCD into many homes in Africa’s most important country.

Even in countries where literacy levels are high, proper knowledge and awareness of SCD is poor, not to talk of countries bedeviled by extremely low literacy levels. In many parts of the world, parents become sensitized to their status usually after an offspring has been found with SCD or its variant.

Ignorance mixed with illiteracy helps ensure that children with SCD do not receive appropriate treatment for the genetic condition. Moreover, in a general and pervasive atmosphere of ignorance, even the so-called educated ones far no better. The intractable, emotion-sapping health conundrum has turned educated families into gullible practitioners of fetish at the hands of certain schools of alternative medical practice.

Although medical science affirms there is no cure for SCD (except for bone marrow or stem cell transplant), the religious industry contests this and proclaims there is a cure.

Testimonies abound in many Nigerian churches of miracle cures for SCD. The saddening aspect is that some of the religious institutions publicizing these cures are founded by erudite scholars. The churches also have in their midst experienced doctors and pharmacists who ought to know better.

How do these so-called general overseers and health professionals react to the cure testimonies? They shout ‘Allahu Akbar!’ (in English, of course) to the cock and bull story; everyone goes home drunk and potbellied with the notion that God can (literally) do all things! (Now, now, God can do all things, but we can be rest assured He will not do all things.)

A unique non-communicable public health phenomenon deserving serious attention, SCD takes a backseat to HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable illnesses. The Nigerian government has shirked its responsibility and left the burden of raising awareness about SCD to public-spirited sufferers, affected families and non-affected but committed individuals and organizations.

The Author

Countries with much less worry about SCD – such as Jamaica, Canada and the United States – are doing a lot more than African countries combined for affected citizens. Perhaps more importantly, they are doing more to address the problem of low public awareness, in particular among high-risk groups. America spends an average of $1 million on every citizen with SCD who has survived to the age of 45. In Africa, families cry to high heavens, singlehandedly bearing the financial yoke of SCD, on top of many other unquantifiable and unpalatable experiences.

We can no longer abide – we can no longer afford to tolerate the mantra of ‘informed choice’ – the catechism which encourages intending couples to tread where angels fear. The well of SCD complications is like an alley filled with dormant but poisonous snakes – how can anyone, by the doctrine of informed choice, ask a child to walk, all alone, through that alleyway?

The so-called informed choice of the parents does not guarantee that the offspring with SCD will be shielded from the complications of the disorder. Champions of the doctrine of informed choice must realize that SCD is no respecter of prior knowledge.

If at all, informed choice is for more caring societies, where no one need suffer because they cannot afford specialist medical treatment. Here in Africa, where families are left on their own devices, here, where the environmental is hostile to survival, here, where research is grossly underfunded if not overlooked, here, where corruption is endemic, the best bet for SCD is PREVENTION.

By AVOIDANCE

With improved public awareness about genotype and its implications, positive action based on avoidance will eventually become the rule rather than the exception.

Let everyone marry who they will – knowing that companionship is more important in marriage than procreation, let people marry human beings not the microcosm called genotype; but let everyone not be so mean as to bring pain and suffering upon an innocent soul. No child deserves to live in pain or in fear thereof.

Olajide (www.scdjournal.com/olajide) is author, Menace In My Blood – my affliction with sickle cell anaemia and Editor, African Sickle Cell News & World Report – Nigeria.

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