By Asmau Ahmad
The Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (SCFN) on Wednesday urged governments at all levels, corporate organisations and individuals to support the foundation toward alleviating the sufferings of sickle cell patients.
Prof. Olu Akinyanju, the founder of the foundation, made the plea at a media forum on the inauguration of “In Flight Scheme for Sickle Cell”, in collaboration with Arik Airline in Lagos. Akinyanju said that the scheme was to appeal to the generosity of passengers of Arik Airline to donate to the foundation to assist sickle cell patients. He said that lack of funds and poor government commitment to the disorder, had contributed to the high prevalence of the disorder in the country.
According to him, in Nigeria, 150, 000 babies with sickle cell disorder are born annually.
“Our country has the highest prevalence and yet this condition is neglected and never given attention.
“In 1972, the Sickle Cell Anaemia Act was enacted in the U.S. and till date, they have 21 centres to cater for these patients. But in Nigeria, the reverse is the case.
“The foundation being the only sickle cell centre in the country, was set up in 1994 to help patients and we have not had any government support.
“We need funds for research, for clinical trials, for clinical treatments, for training of doctors, scientists and nurses, to prevent wrong diagnosis and for proper management of the disorder, in time of crisis.
“These children can live healthy and longer lives, if we research well into this condition because research can reduce their pains and control their crises.
“We met Arik Airline in October, 2014 with the support envelopes for their passengers and till date, they have raised N5 million for the foundation.
“If this could be achieved under five months, we urge other organisations and well-meaning Nigerians to key into this scheme and help us to alleviate the sufferings of sickle cell patients,’’ he said.
Also, Mr Siva Ramachandran, the Senior Vice-President, Arik Wing of Nigeria, said that sickle cell disorder required the serious attention of all and sundry. Ramachandran said that the disorder, with its high burden in the country, did not get the required attention as other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, in terms of policy and funding.
“This condition solely affects children and these children are the future of this country; this means that we have to find a way of preventing and eradicating it.
“This is why Arik is supporting the foundation, but we cannot do it alone. Other organizations and individuals need to also support this worthy course.
“The media have a major role to play too in telling Nigerians that they can in their little way contribute and donate to tackle the scourge of sickle cell disorder,“ he added.