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Nigeria Grapples with 30% of Global Malaria cases, urgent call for Sickle Cell Disease as a Public Health Issue

In a striking revelation, Nigeria’s Health Minister has disclosed that the nation shoulders a staggering 30% of the global malaria burden. This dire situation underscores the pressing need for comprehensive measures to address health issues within the country effectively.

Sickle Cell Disease: A Growing Concern

Meanwhile, the Dotun Oladipupo Foundation, a prominent non-governmental organization, has raised a clarion call for the Federal Government to recognize sickle cell disease as a paramount public health concern. The foundation’s president, Dotun Oladipupo, made this impassioned plea during a recent outreach event held at the Federal Medical Centre in Abeokuta, Ogun State, dedicated to patients battling sickle cell disease.

Oladipupo emphasized that designating sickle cell disease as a public health issue would serve as a catalyst for governments at all levels to devote increased attention, resources, and funding to the welfare and betterment of those affected by the disease.

Nigeria’s Disturbing Status

Nigeria currently bears the dubious distinction of having the highest prevalence of sickle cell disease worldwide. Oladipupo, who also serves as a lecturer at Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Abeokuta, stressed that beyond this crucial designation, the government must enact effective legislation to ensure equal opportunities for individuals with sickle cell disease in areas such as job placements and political appointments.

“Government needs to also ensure that there is effective legislation that will give equal opportunities to sickle cell carriers like other persons without the disease. This legislation will help to prevent issues of discrimination in terms of job opportunities, political appointments, career development, and so on because when carriers are carefully catered for, they can reach the peak of their career.”

The Burden on Caregivers

Addressing the outreach event, Chief Consultant Paediatrician Mojisola Ogundeyi at FMC Abeokuta shed light on a significant challenge faced by parents and guardians of sickle cell patients in Nigeria. She highlighted the substantial financial burden that often falls on caregivers, as government support remains limited.

“The major challenge I would say is facing sickle cell patients in Nigeria is support from the government because the financial burden on the parents and relatives is quite much. They (sickle cell patients) have to be on some daily treatment which the government is not supporting and which we do not have much support from members of the public.”

Ogundeyi urged the Federal Government to take swift action by initiating the Universal Health Coverage program and implementing a comprehensive health insurance scheme. Such measures could significantly alleviate the financial stress endured by those caring for sickle cell patients.

Continued Advocacy and Public Awareness

A Genetic Counsellor specializing in sickle cell matters at the Federal Medical Centre Abeokuta, Oluwatoyin Erubami, stressed the importance of ongoing advocacy and public enlightenment efforts to combat the prevalence of sickle cell disease in Nigeria.

“It will surprise you that at this age and time, some people are still not aware of sickle cell disease, so for us to help our patients, the advocacy has to be all over the nation. The government has to create awareness so that the populace can be aware that we have an issue about sickle cell. There is no way we can eradicate it in Nigeria, but with awareness, we can reduce the cases of sickle cell disease to the minimum.”

As Nigeria grapples with its substantial share of global health challenges, the call for action on sickle cell disease underscores the importance of addressing endemic health issues head-on to secure a healthier future for its citizens.

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