Sickle Cell: Indian Doctor tasks Nigerian Government on awareness, transplant funding

Nnenna Okoronkwo, Abuja

Dr. Gaurav stated this while speaking to newsmen in Abuja during a seminar titled: Bone Marrow Transplant as a cure for Sickle Cell Disorder and other Hematology Illness.

Dr.  Gaurav Kharya, Clinical Lead Centre for Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy New Delhi India has urged the Nigerian Government to show the political will and formulate policies to alleviate the suffering of Sickle Cell Anaemia patients.

Dr. Gaurav stated this while speaking to newsmen in Abuja during a seminar titled: Bone Marrow Transplant as a cure for Sickle Cell Disorder and other Hematology Illness organised by Epiconsult Diagnostic Centre in collaboration with Dr. Gaurav Kharya of Centre for Bone Marrow Transplant Indrasprastha,  India.

Dr.  Gaurav said the treating of sickle cell patients through Bone Marrow Transport in India had helped strengthen patients lives in Africa which he described as one of the continents worst hit by this menace.

Cost Implication
He however noted that the huge cost of funding implication for parents and patients constitutes a serious risk, as many parents can’t afford the cost of travelling to India for the transplant.

“Sickle Cell Disease is a disease that affects which affects every parts of the body. The problems are peculiar to each patient”. “We have been trying to do this for some time now. What we think can be done is to have the faculty here. That will reduce the cost burden on the patients and parents. That also will take care of the cost of travelling to India. However, you need big political commitment on the part of government to achieve that. I have given a proposal to that effect to Doctors here in Nigeria. I have even discussed this proposal with the Governors forum,” Dr. Gaurav explained.

He added that the various stakeholders like medical practitioners, advocates and the entire public must come together to achieve this common goal of helping people with sickle cell anaemia.

“You need everybody to come together to get this done.  You need the medical practitioners, critical stakeholders and advocates. In some other parts of Africa, what the government do is to provide partial funding for the patients. That is, taking care of up to 20 to 30% of the total cost for the patients. But it depends on the financial capability of the family,” he added.

“These are steps government can take to support the sickle cell anaemia patients.  The easiest which is providing partial funding and the long term which is by providing the facilities here in Nigeria.”

Awareness level
He lamented the low level of awareness on the part of the relevant government agencies.

“The level of progress when it comes to awareness is slow. We have a long way to go. This is based on the fact that the incident of sickle cell disease is not on the decline. It is consistently going up. This highlights that we are lacking something, because if the awareness is good, obviously this thing should at least come to flat if not declining.” He stressed.

“So a lot needs to be done. Again I would say there is need for strong political will to convey this message to the masses that everyone should screen themselves of this particular gene before marriage.  People with this particular gene should not marry.”

Government Intervention
On their parts, some parents who were at the seminar stressed the need for urgent government intervention in the area of funding.  They unanimously agreed that more sensitisation must be done.

A parent who pleaded anonymity stated that raising such money for bone marrow transplant for her daughter in India will be a tough task considering the economic situation of the country.

She pleaded with government to come to the aid of the masses, while stating that only the cost of running test is as high as 200 US Dollars.

“I have a daughter who is suffering from sickle cell.  I am always scared especially when the crisis comes. Going to India now, you will need to have nothing less that 40million Naira.  We just need government intervention,” she stated.

Health Practice
The Programme Development officer of Epiconsult, Abubakar Magaji reiterated the organizations commitment to helping the Nigeria populace with world standard health practice.

“Health has come to that stage where you need to give more, because there are some particular individuals that their health challenge have not been captured by the various health ventures we have around,” Abubakar said.

“One of those individuals is our fellow brothers and sisters with sickle cell disorder. That was the reason we deemed it fit to have a sickle cell centre as part of the value and device we offer to the public,” he added.

“People with sickle cell disorder are living well and peaceful in other parts of the world. We want same to be the story of Nigeria and Nigerians. It is although sad that government is making no effort in helping these people,” Abubakar further stated.

Collective Support
Chinyere Obiejimba, a lab scientist, charged well meaning Nigerians and governments at all levels to come to the aid of people suffering from Sickle Cell Anaemia.

“They are suffering a lot. Well meaning Nigerians and concerned groups should come to their aid. That is why we are looking at Bone Marrow transplant as a cure to this disease.”

“I know it is expensive, but with everybody’s input it is doable. We are advocating that the tools and facilities be made available here in Nigeria.  It will help a lot,” she said.