World Sickle Cell Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 in order to increase the awareness about the sickle cell disease and its cure among the common public. It was celebrated first time on 19th of June in 2009.
The theme for this year's event is 'Know Your Status'
Health experts met in Homabay county to mark the world Sickle Cell Disease awarenes day.
The event seeks to draw attention to the high prevalence of the disease in the country and to sensitise those with the ailment on how to cope with the condition.
In line with this year’s theme of ‘Know your status’, a team of medical personnel from the Aga Khan, Moi Teaching and Referral, and Homabay County hospitals will conduct free screening, consultation and treatment.
“It’s a national shame that the disease isn’t given enough recognition yet it makes children suffer excessively from other common childhood diseases like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and meningitis,” said Professor William Macharia, head of the department of paediatrics and child health at the Aga Khan University Hospital.
He stated that there is an urgent need to raise awareness about sickle cell anaemia (SCA) as it has a negative impact on the fight against infant mortality in areas where it is prevalent.
The disease is an inherited blood disorder affecting about two per cent of newborns in western Kenya (mostly among the Luo and the Luhya communities) and parts of the coastal region. An estimated 60 to 80 per cent of these children die before their fifth birthday.
“Unfortunately, the people living in these affected counties are not familiar with the condition. They don’t even have a local name for it and often blame witchcraft and bad water for the deaths of their children,” stated Prof Macharia.
Sickle-cell disease is characterised by a modification in the shape of the red blood cell from a smooth doughnut-shape into a crescent or half-moon shape. The deformed cells lack plasticity and can impair blood flow.
This leads to anaemia, poor blood oxygen levels, chronic body pains and severe bacterial infections.
Sickle cell anaemia is a hereditary lifelong disease. People born with it inherit the sickle gene from each of their parents.
Those who inherit a sickle gene from one parent and a normal one from the other have a condition called sickle cell trait or carrier state. This group does not suffer from symptoms of the disease.