Canada yesterday issued a grant of 19,000 Canadian dollars (Tsh30m) to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania operating under the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) to help improve services to patients.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam when handing over the grant, Canadian High Commissioner Alexandre Leveque said Tanzania ranks fourth in the world for the incidence of the sickle cell disease among newborns, with up to 11,000 new cases each year.
Death from sickle cell disease is preventable through a number of relatively simple measures, including early diagnosis through newborn screening and the provision of appropriate medical care involving the prevention of infection and quick intervention if acute symptoms develop, he said.
In order to ensure people are aware about the disease, hospitals across the country must able to deliver screening services and follow-up care and best practices on treatment, he emphasized.
The High Commission through its Canada Fund for Local Initiatives made the provision to the Sickle Cell Foundation to create publicity and information material designed to raise awareness of the disease in the country, he stated.
“We want the sickle cell disease to be known to many people so that parents who have children with the disease seek the doctor earlier instead of wait until the problem reaches a critical stage,” he stated.
On the other hand MNH Director of Nursing Services, Agnes Mtawa thanked the High Commission on behalf of the institution, promising that this assistance will be spent to improve services as intended.
She said the hospital and the foundation face a challenge of public awareness about the disease whereby most patients come at the hospital when the disease has attained critical levels. The hospital authorities in collaboration with the foundation shall work hard to reduce the impact of the disease, she asserted.
Dr. Sarah Maongezi, the head of physical non-communicable diseases in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare said the ministry has been strengthening services at all levels of health care in the country.
The ministerial administrator paid gratitude to the High Commission for supporting efforts of the Sickle Cell Foundation for improving child survival by increasing the public awareness campaign countrywide, noting that the foundation was also working closely with the hospital.
The government has included the disease on the list of priority diseases in its non-communicable diseases strategy, giving it prominence among the public and facilitating early diagnosis.
The sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes significant levels of infant illness and death, with Tanzania ranking fourth in the world after Nigeria, India and DR Congo. If untreated, up to 90 percent of affected children will die in childhood, while Muhimbili Hospital serves about 20 percent of sickle cell population in the country, the ministerial official intoned.