Abia integrates sickle cell study in schools, threatens sanctions on defaulters
Worried by the pains associated with the Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and the imperative need to curb its prevalence, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has directed that its study should be incorporated in the state school system.
He issued the directive Monday while flagging off a two-day Train-the-Trainer Curriculum Dissemination Workshop for teachers in Umuahia, saying that his government remained committed to “generating as much awareness as possible about the disease so that the populace can make informed decisions about their life choices and marriage partners.”
The workshop featured lectures on sickle cell and how to integrate it into the school scheme of work as prescribed by medical and curriculum development experts.
Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Chris Ezem, the governor described integrating the study of sickle cell disorder into the Abia State School System as an ambitious strategy propelled by his wife, Deaconess Nkechi Ikpeazu, and designed to reduce the prevalence in the state.
Noting that sickle cell disease is a hereditary ailment that becomes manifest when two persons with mismatched genotypes conceive babies, Ikpeazu said that his administration already enacted legislation making it compulsory for every citizen in the state to undertake genotype and blood group test and have the results inscribed on their identity cards, while institutions and marriage registries that wed or join couples without first demanding their tests results, run the risk of being fined or closed.
He commended his wife for her project called Vicar Hope Foundation, which facilitated the workshops, saying it has recorded immeasurable successes in the fight against SCD in the State.
He consequently charged teachers to ensure they disseminate the necessary information to their schools’ children and the communities and observe the required caution.
His wife, Nkechi, had, through the Foundation’s Administrator, Dr. Edith Nwosu, said that the interventions carried out by the foundation were aimed at reversing the hereditary SCD onslaught.
She added that the foundation had set up two modern sickle cell care hospitals in the state to complement the sickle cell care focal desks established by the state government in the 17 councils.
She also announced that an estimated 150,000 babies were born each year with sickle cell anaemia lamenting that most of them died before they attained five years of age while those who survived beyond age five, became a financial and emotional burden on families and caregivers as they struggle to prevent them, children, from dying.
According to Mrs. Ikpeazu, to date, the only cure for the disease is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, stressing that doing this is very expensive hence the best approach remains for people seeking to have babies to ensure they have matching genotypes.
According to the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Joe Osuji, represented by Dr. Sam Ohaeri, 17 sickle cell focal offices have been set up in the state 17 LGAs for drug distribution and case management in rural areas and thus bringing the medical care closer to the people at the grassroots.
In addition, Sickle Cell Desk Offices were set up and manned by qualified officers and by so doing implementing government policies and programmes in relation to the disease including surveillance.
The Permanent Secretary, state Ministry of Education, Mr. Princewill Eze Ajuzie, who assured that teachers would imbibe the training and disseminate the information appropriately through the Abia State school system to reach every part of the state.