A staggering 6,000 children are born with sickle cell disease in Cameroon each year, according to the Association to Fight Sickle Cell in the West Region. This highlights the urgent need for increased awareness and preventative measures.

Love vs. Science?

Etienne Tabopda, President of the aforementioned association, emphasized the importance of premarital screening for hemoglobin genotype. He laments that many couples prioritize love over scientific compatibility, leading to a higher risk of having children with sickle cell disease.

Understanding Sickle Cell Disease

Dr. Claude Belanquale, a Medical Officer at the Bangang Medical Center, explains that sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder caused by abnormally shaped red blood cells. These misshapen cells struggle to carry oxygen effectively throughout the body, resulting in severe anemia.

Prevention Through Screening

Dr. Belanquale stresses the significance of premarital screening for both partners. Since the disease is hereditary, couples with
certain genotypes (SS or AS) have a higher chance of having children with sickle cell disease.

Management, Not Cure

While there’s no definitive cure for sickle cell disease, Dr. Belanquale outlines vital management strategies. These include iron supplements to aid red blood cell production, increased water intake, and regular checkups to prevent infections that can worsen anemia.

Early Diagnosis, A Matter of Life and Death

A critical shortfall in Cameroon, and many African countries, is the lack of standardized newborn screening protocols. This delays diagnosis, and tragically, many children with sickle cell disease don’t survive past the age of 5.

Hope Through Progress

The theme for World Sickle Cell Day 2024, ‘Hope Through Progress: Advancing Sickle Cell Care Globally,’ reflects the ongoing fight against this disease. While acknowledging challenges, it emphasizes advancements in research and the hope for a future with improved treatment options.

Source: Cameroon News Agency

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