The Ministry of Health yesterday joined the rest of the world to mark the world sickle cell day, with hope to increase awareness about the disease.
The United Nations General Assembly recognized sickle cell anemia as a public health problem in 2008.
According to the Minister of Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng , Uganda was the first country to map the burden of sickle cell country wide in 2014.
“The survey which depicted a high prevalence of sickle cell trait and disease national wide, with a national average of 13.3% trait and 0.73% disease, the survey results clearly showed Uganda as a high sickle cell burdened country in the region” she said.
While addressing the media at the Ministry, Dr Aceng added that the survey results indicated a non-uniform distribution of the burden across the country, with some high burden districts and regions having over 20% prevalence of trait.
“By these survey results, between 15,000 to 20,000 babies are born with sickle cell disease each year in Uganda, but it is estimated that 80% are dead by 5 years. These survey results became a great tool for advocacy, which we have used well to advance the sickle cell agenda to this day.”
These results become the prelude of the targeted new born screening efforts, that we started in some of the high burden districts and continues to run to this day.
“This new born screening targeted some of the high burden districts that include; Gulu, Lira, Kitgum, Dokolo, Oyam, Aletbong, Amolator, Bundibugyo, Tororo, Jinja, Iganga, Mityana, Kasana Luwero and major hospitals in Kampala including; Mulago, Nsambya, Rubaga, Kibuli hospitals etc”.
In the past 3 years, over 200,000 new born babies have been screened. Health care workers in these health facilities have been trained in sickle cell care, and sickle cell clinics have been established.
“In these clinics, we have ensured availability of prophylactic drugs like penicillin, anti-malarials, folic acid, pain killers and so on, for routine patient management”.
This has been complemented by mass sensitization campaigns to create more awareness about the disease among the public.
Mass screening campaigns and counseling have also been conducted in several districts.
Pre-marital counseling and testing is being promoted in collaboration with some cultural and religious leaders.