African health ministers has launched a campaign to raise awareness, strengthen prevention and care to curb the toll of sickle cell disease, one of the most common diseases in the region but receiving inadequate care.
More than 66% of the 120 million people affected by sickle cell disease worldwide live in Africa.
Approximately 1,000 children are born with the disease every day in Africa, making it the most prevalent genetically acquired disease in the region.
More than half of these children will die before their fifth birthday, usually from infection or severe anemia.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that shortens the survival of red blood cells and causes anemia, often called sickle cell anemia.
Poor blood oxygen levels and blood vessel blockages in people with sickle cell disease can cause extreme pain in the back, chest, hands, and feet, as well as serious bacterial infections.
In the Africa region, there were 38,403 deaths from sickle cell disease in 2019, a 26% increase from 2000.
The burden of sickle cell disease stems from underinvestment in efforts to combat the disease .
Many public health facilities in the region lack sickle cell disease prevention, early detection, and care services.
Inadequate staffing and lack of services at lower-level health facilities also hamper effective disease response.
The campaign, launched at a side event on enhancing sickle cell disease advocacy during the World Health Organization (WHO) 72nd Regional Committee for Africa, the region’s flagship health meeting, has The objective is to strengthen the political will and commitment, as well as the financing resources for the prevention and control of sickle cell disease throughout the region.
It also seeks to increase public awareness of the disease in schools, communities, health institutions and the media and to advocate for stronger health systems to ensure uninterrupted, quality services and equitable access to medicines and innovative tools.
“Most African countries do not have the resources to provide comprehensive care for people with sickle cell disease, despite the availability of proven cost-effective interventions for prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of this condition,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“We need to bring attention to this disease and help improve the quality of life for those who suffer from it.”