Kisumu to launch sickle cell management unit

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A sickle cell disease management and care project is set to be launched on Tuesday at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital.

This will aid in responding to the high burden of the condition in the region.

The project is a partnership between Novartis East Africa and the Kisumu county government.

The project incorporates a new born screening unit and a centre of excellence.

During his fourth county address, Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o confirmed the launch.

“Working with renowned pharmaceutical company Novartis, the hospital on 7th December 2021, will launch the Sickle Cell Disease Infant Screening and Comprehensive Management targeting to screen 38,000 babies annually after the ‘migele’ machine arrived”.

Nyong’o noted that this is a machine that can detect cancer in the infancy stages.

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that a child is born with.

It is passed down through a parent’s genes. Children with the disease make an abnormal type of haemoglobin. This is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. With SCD, the body organs and tissues don’t get enough oxygen.

According to the World Health Organisation, each year, more than 300,000 babies in sub-Saharan Africa are born with SCD. However, many do not live past the age of five because they lack access to testing, comprehensive clinical care, and early intervention programmes.

In Kenya, it is estimated that 6,000 children are born with the disease. However, between 50 to 80 per cent of these children die before their fifth birthday.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe is expected to be chief guest at the launch.

While Novartis will fully sponsor the launch, this project is supported by various partners including American Society of Haematology (ASH) and Perkin Elmer-Finland.

The National SCD Programme will be sponsored by Novartis in partnership with the Ministry of Health and implemented in 17 priority counties with the highest burden of SCD.

They are: Kisumu, Bungoma, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Siaya, Nairobi, Mombasa; Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale, Migori, Busia, Vihiga, Kisii, Nyamira, Uasin Gishu, and Trans Nzoia.

Kisumu county, where 21 out of 100 children are born with SCD, is earmarked to be the Index County of Implementation for the National SCD Programme anchored under the five-year MoU between Novartis and the Ministry of Health (2020-2025).

Key areas of focus in this National SCD Program include: awareness creation, education and community engagement, advocacy and capacity building and training of healthcare workers.

Others are to explore opportunities to make hydroyxurea (HU) available and accessible in Kenya and to make medications related to care of sickle cell disease available and accessible to all patients.

The MoU also focuses on collaborative partnerships to make diagnosis including screening of SCD available accessible, affordable and sustainable in Kenya.

It further focuses on health systems strengthening and research to address the SCD burden, which would require data collection and analysis, impact and outcome monitoring and evaluation.

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