A former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd), has expressed regret that his government could not take steps to combat the menace of sickle cell disease because its enormity was unknown at that time.
He also called for genotype education for intending couples in the country, in order to prevent the complications associated with the disease.
While expressing concern over a global statistic, which submits that 75 per cent of sickle cell cases in the world occur in Nigeria, Gowon urged the Federal Government to step up sickle cell interventions in the country.
Gowon spoke in Abuja during the public presentation of two books written by a Senior Pastor of Foursquare Gospel Church, Asokoro, Babajide Olowodola, whose son is a sickle cell patient. The books are entitled, Oasis in the Desert and Reflections.
He said, “I hope the government will take it more seriously to assist in this particular case especially when you hear that 75 per cent of cases of sickle cell disease in the world occur in Nigeria. Is it the food we eat? Why is this problem only mostly in Nigeria?
“I know I would have done something about this if we had known during my time that there was that particular problem in Nigeria and I think this is what the government should do. But let there be contributions from the general public in order to combat this particular disease which harms so many young Nigerians.”
A former Minister of Health, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, while commending the efforts of the Federal Government and sickle cell foundations in battling the scourge, gave the assurance that the disease would be managed effectively by medical practitioners within the country.
He, however, stressed that to achieve that, there was need for increased Federal Government intervention to allow for early detection of the sickle cell disease.
Lambo said, “The government is paying attention to sickle cell. With time and with what many foundations are doing, with the work that is going on in research, looking at some of the drugs manufactured and used by these people, very shortly it will be possible to manage sickle cell.
“But in terms of successes in managing the disease, the earlier we can diagnose, the better. That is why whatsoever funds Olowodola is able to get from here, he is going to dedicate it or a part of it to getting the equipment for early diagnosis.
“As a former minister of health, I will endorse a simple test by intending couples to know their genotype because it is clear that if you have a certain genotype you should avoid getting married to somebody with a certain genotype.”
The author, who is also the founder of the Babajide Olowodola Foundation, stressed that regardless of the contributions of government in the health sector, there was room for improvement.
While lamenting the absence of first class medical facilities with modern equipment to tackle complicated diseases such as sickle cell anaemia in the country, the author called for deliberate medical interventions to revamp the nation’s health sector.
He said, “We have gone through a long night with our last born who suffers the sickle cell disease and we don’t think another Nigerian should be allowed to go through that experience alone.’’