Uganda Prioritizes response to Sickle Cell Disease

Aerial view of the Scientific Conference deliberations at Hotel Africana Aerial view of the Scientific Conference deliberations at Hotel Africana

Kampala, 17th June 2016 - Northern Uganda has the highest prevalence of Sickle cell trait and malaria in the country standing at 18.6% and (63%) respectively .This was revealed in a Sickle cell survey done in 2014 by the Ministry of Health (MoH) with support from Makerere College of Health Sciences and Cincinnati Children’s hospital. The study further revealed that East-Central regions come second with a sickle cell prevalence of 16.7% and malaria at 56%. The Mid-Eastern and South-Western regions have a sickle cell trait prevalence of 16.5% and malaria at 36%; and sickle cell trait of 4.1% and malaria at 12% respectively. The study further indicated that there is positive association between sickle trait and malaria.

“I believe we can tackle Sick cell disease effectively if we scale up awareness and provide testing equipment to health centers”, said Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Parliament of Uganda who is also the Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) Champion at the recently concluded three day International (REDAC) Sickle cell scientific conference held at Hotel African in Kampala. She further reiterated her commitment to fight SCD by steering parliament discussions towards tackling of SCD.

“I commend the Ministry of Health and partners, for the immense work done in building momentum in the African region for provision of quality prevention and control services for those affected by SCD and their families”, said Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu, the World Health Organization Country Representative in Uganda. He further said that SCD is a major genetic disease that affects red blood cells in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with about 240,000 born with SCD annually and that 50-80% of these children die before their 5th birthday; calling for the “need to scale up awareness and screening at health centers.”

Although SCD is a major public health concern in Uganda, the interventions that are currently in place are not sufficient to address the current burden. Furthermore, systematic screening for SCD using a simple blood test is seldom done; and diagnosis is often made when a child presents with severe complications. 

Note:

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a major genetic disease in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with prevalence ranging between 1% and 2% in North Africa to less than 1% in Southern Africa while in countries such as Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda the prevalence is between 20% and 30%; and in some parts of Uganda it is as high as 45%

WHO provides support to MoH to supervise and coordinate interventions relating to the prevention and management of SCD. WHO also supports MoH in provision of genetic counselling services screening services for early detection, efforts to reduce morbidity, chemoprophylaxis, vaccines, clinical care of children and pregnant women and also capacity building of human resource to improve quality of life of patients.

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Uganda