The House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to introduce free and compulsory newborn screening for sickle cell disease in all hospitals in the country. This followed a unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Rep. Umar Sarki during plenary presided over by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr Idris Wase on Thursday.
The motion was tagged “Call on the Federal Ministry of Health to Develop and Efficient System for Management of Sickle Cell Disease in Nigeria”.
Moving the motion, Sarki explained that data from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention showed that Nigeria had the largest population of people with sickle cell disease in the world.
The lawmaker said that the disease had the potential to spread rapidly as over 40 million Nigerians, representing 25 per cent of the population, were carriers of the sickle cell gene known as AS.
“The overwhelming majority of the carriers of sickle cell traits in Nigeria are not aware of their genotype status, let alone taking informed decisions to evade the risk of having children with the disease.
“Conscious that the disease, which is caused by inheriting two different defective genes known as haemoglobin S (HbS), has adverse health consequences.
“Such as anaemia, severe pains in vital organs, tissue injuries, stroke, pulmonary hypertension, renal failure, decrease in patient’s lifespan and interference in education, employment and psychological development,” he said.
The lawmakers also noted that current modalities for treatment of the disease were characterised by high treatment costs.
The house also expressed concern that the United Nations had identified the disease as a global health challenge and set aside June 19 annually to reflect in efforts in tackling it.
“Nigeria which has the highest cases of the disease globally has not shown serious concern,” he observed.
The house also expressed concern that the country had yet to establish newborn screening which was vital to early detection and intervention as obtained in countries such as the United States and Ghana.
The house noted that newborn screening and awareness campaigns had significantly reduced infant mortality rate arising from sickle cell in Ghana.
The lawmakers called on the Ministry of Health to also provide free treatment and counselling services to patients with the disease.
The lawmakers also called for the sensitisation of religious institutions and the judiciary to include results of the genotype test as one of the conditions for marriage.
According to the house, the ministry should collaborate with government and private broadcasting stations for continuous awareness on the cause, health consequences and solutions to the disease.
“The house also urged the Ministry of Education to include sickle cell education in science subjects in all primary and secondary school,” he said.
It further mandated the House Committees on Healthcare Services; Information; National Orientation, Ethics and Values; and Basic Education to ensure implementation.