Sickle Cell Awareness Month 2019: “Breaking The Circle”
Sickle Cell Foundation in collaboration with Life Transformation for Africa Initiative (LIFT4Africa) and Sickle Cell and Young Stroke Survivors joined the Global Community, Civil Societies and Organizations within Owerri, Imo State in celebrating this year’s World Sickle Cell Awareness Month. The theme for this year’s Sickle Cell Awareness Month is “Breaking The Circle” which emphasize the need to end the stigmatization that sickle cell warriors face in the society and the world at large.
LIFT4Africa in collaboration with Sickle Cell Foundation and Sickle Cell and Young Stroke Survivor organized a three (3) days program which focused on the need to end the stigmatization faced by those living with Sickle Cell Disease SCD (Warriors). The three (3) days program started with a road walk within the city of Owerri, this was followed with a live radio program, where listeners were able to call in to make their own contribution, ask questions concerning the types of sickle cell and way out and also adding that, if those in the grass-root and rural areas could be sensitized on the prevalence of sickle cell anemia would be cut to a halve. On the third day, a seminar was organized to discuss the need to break the circle of stigmatization faced by “Warriors”.
On the third day, the seminar started with an opening prayer by the Executive Director, LIFT4Africa, who was also the facilitator of the event. Mr. Uche Udenze the CEO of Sickle Cell Foundation took the opening remark, he thanked everyone for making out time to honor the event, thereafter, introduced the topics for discussion, which are: Rhesus Factor and Compatibility, Genotype and Sickle Cell; Myths and Reality, Breaking the Circle, First Aid for Sickle Cell Patient and finally, Diet Management.
Mr. Victor Osuji explained and also emphasized the importance of Rhesus compatibility. He stated that inadequate rhesus compatibility screening would must often, lead to barrenness (abortion), miscarriage and inability to conceive after their first issue and so on. He also stated that this could only be averted if early screening is conducted by both spouse.
Dr. Pedro Unachukwu focused on the genotype and its type while also explaining why it is important to engage in early genotype screening. He stated that there is need for everyone to be an advocate in ensuring early genotype screening before engaging in any relationship. He went further to state that whenever the genotype turns out to be incompatible (compatibility link) then for the interest of the children, let the relationship be, you can always find love out there. He also pointed out that Nigeria still have the highest prevalence of Sickle Cell Carriers in the world which he attributed to the poor screening policy, poor sensitization, awareness creation and high level of ignorance among the youths before engaging in a relationship in the country.
While speaking, Lady Udenze spoke on the Myth surrounding Sickle Cell Disease stating that sickle cell is not a death sentence, despite the fact that Warriors experience various complications and subsequently, pain crisis. She went further to state that it is called ‘Sickle’ because of the sickle (a farming tool ‘C’ in shape) shape which most of the red blood cell tend to have. This sickle shaped cells leads to complications and crisis due to the inadequate circulation of oxygenated blood to various organs of the body. When this happens, a high tendency of crisis\pains could be felt. She went further to state that Sickle Cell Disease is not an ‘African Disease’. It is also seen among Americas, and other races. There are also myths that warriors are drug addict, these is as a result of trying to get relieve and comfort from pains when in crisis. She thereafter concluded that while loving, we should love responsibly!
We experienced the height of the event when Mr. Uche Udenze came on stage to discuss the “breaking the circle”. He emphasized that there is an urgent need to break the circle of stigmatization, segregation and marginalization faced by people living with Sickle Cell Disease. He reiterated that most Warriors have gone into their shells due to the way the society treat them and others living with the disease.
Most Warriors hide or isolate themselves from the society due to the name “Sickle Cell”. Recounting his experience, he stated various challenges faced by Warriors which range from stigmatization at work place, among friends and peers, going into a relationship and finding a life partner, these among others are the challenges faced by Warriors. He further stated that it is right time to put and bring an end to these stigmas.
Those living with Sickle Cell can also live a normal life, and thus normal person. But to live a healthier life, proper care and medical attention are been administered. He went further to discuss the First Aid that could be giving at the early onsite of pain, this he stated is by using a towel to massaging lightly the affected area with warm water after which a dose of Paracetamol can be taken orally, but when these persist, one should seek medical attention. Finally, he pointed out the need for Warriors to religiously adhere to their routine drugs and checkups, stating that abiding to these reduces the chances of having a complication as a result of a crisis.
Then was the discussion segment where some warriors present at the event shared their experiences. Mrs. Hope Nonso stated that she had to form the habit of consuming a lot of water which resulted to her blotted tummy, but this was also necessary to avoiding crisis. She also recounted that while growing up, her she had to miss school due to crisis. While also recalling that on many occasions, her little friends in school mocked her because of her skinny stature. While also appreciating her Dad for the support all this period, she concluded by adding that love from family members and spouse goes a long way in keeping Warriors mentally and psychologically stable.
While mr. Chinedu Peters pointed out the financial consequences that comes with treating and managing the crisis and on most occasions, leg ulcers that could arise. He pleaded to intending couples and youths to know their genotype and have it on their fingers tip so as to avoid falling out of love which now becomes an emotional issue and thereafter seeking for spiritual solution. Why the stress? he asked, while it could be avoided. He also pleaded with intending couples to avoid putting their God to a test. He further called on legislation to end the procreation of children with Sickle Cell Disease, who would come to this world to suffer and be denied or deprived of social and human security, spending most of their life time in taking drugs and frequently visiting the hospital. (pseudo names)
Dr. Chinyere Okorugo took the closing remark while reminding the Warriors that they should know “they only have Sickle Cell but Sickle Cell do not have them”, therefore calling on intending couples to avoid increasing the prevalence of Sickle Cell in Nigeria and the world at large. While also calling on relevant stakeholders to do what is necessary in mitigating the prevalence as Nigeria have the highest cases of Sickle Cell Diseases.
After the closing remark, there was a free blood group and genotype screening among those who attended the event and among passers-by.