The Tanzania government has restated its commitment to continue supporting both scientifically and materially the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania (SCFT) and other stakeholders so they can tackle the challenges brought by the disease as well as improve the health sector in the country.
The commitment was made by Prof Makame Mbarawa, minister for Communications, Science and Technology, on behalf of the Vice-President, at the closure of a Sickle Cell Disease Network in Central Africa (REDAC) symposium in Dar es Salaam over the weekend.
Apart from that the Government will also improve availability of statistics to assist in recognition of the real number of sickle cell patients to enable government provide better services required by those patients.
“It is shocking to know that the disease is second to malaria for causing a number of deaths for Tanzanian children aged below five,” said Professor Mbarawa.
Previously, the foundation’s board member, Abdallah Mwinyi told the gathering that brought together scientists and representatives from African countries, Canada and Europe that the symposium aimed to raise awareness among people about the disease.
“Lack of awareness brought myths and stigma to the patients as the society claimed that they would not live for more than 18 years. That is not true and now we want to fill the gaps that were left empty by lack of awareness,” said Mwinyi.
He said the foundation would support and increase research to bring changes in the policies as currently there are few reports about the disease.
“We will work together with the Government to make sure that health supports to the patients are available everywhere in the country along with the psychological support on the disease to the patients as well as their family members,” he said.
Dr. Julie Makani, the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania Vice Chairperson said Tanzania is the fourth country in Africa that has a big number of children born with sickle cell behind Nigeria, DRC and Angola.
“So we have decided to use science to improve health. 11 years ago we started a scientific programme that wanted to find out what caused illness and death in sickle cell patients in Tanzania and now we have established a systematic framework for comprehensive research with prospective surveillance of over 2,500 patients,” she said.
The programme that is part of Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) is one of the largest biomedical sickle cell disease resources in the world.
She said the real number of patients will be known after screening children around the country, so as to reduce the number of deaths at early ages.