By Taofeek LAWAL, Abuja
A sickle cell disorder (SCD) survivor, Mallam Shehu Olaitan Mohammed, has said the best cure for the disorder is through prevention which is to know one’s genotype by undergoing blood test.
Mohammed, who stated this at the launch of his book “I’m A Survivor: The Story of my Triumph over Sickle Cell Pains” to mark the World Sickle Cell Awareness Day (which holds every June 19) in Abuja, expressed his displeasure on how parents and families of children with the disorder do not have enough information about taking care of their children in reducing the incidence of crisis, pains and complications associated with the SCD to the barest minimum.
He said despite its wide prevalence in the society, SCD is greatly misunderstood as people are still ignorant of what genotype is all about and which has led to couples still giving birth to children with the disorder.
A chartered accountant by profession, Mohammed said the book is out to proffer solutions to the lack of awareness about the disorder and how it can be tackled. The book also chronicled his life journey as a sickle cell warrior and the various survival techniques he employed to weather the storm. He added that people with the disorder are still being discriminated against in the labour market because those who supposed to be in the know lack the necessary empathy and understanding to what the SCD patients pass through.
“While sickle cell patients on their part are still lacking adequate information on how to take care of themselves so that they could at least reduce the negative impact of the disorder on their well-being, the book gives hope and assurance to warriors that despite our challenges, we can still rise to realise our dreams and aspirations and not all about death and incapacitation. Money realised from donations and purchases will be judiciously spent on various projects that will make life more meaningful for sickle cell warriors and God willing, I am embarking on enrolling 100 indigent sickle cell warriors on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which will allow them to have access to health care,” Mohammed said.
In his remarks, the chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Ishaq Ayorinde Ajibola who was the author’s former boss, described Mohammed as a thorough-bred professional who was never found wanting and gives his best in whatever he does. Ajibola said with about 40 million Nigerians living with SCD, it is time for the government to allocate budgetary provision to cater for their needs.
The chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, described the author in glowing terms while adding that the book has put all myths associated with SCD in proper perspective and proffer solutions on how it can be tackled.
Mrs Josephine Olunaike, also a SCD survivor and who delivered the lecture, said with the highest number of sickle cell patients in the world residing in Nigeria, it is time for all stakeholders to take a definite stand on how to tackle the disorder and stop all forms of discrimination against the warriors.
“About 90 percent of the world sickle cell patients reside in three countries; DR Congo, India and Nigeria. Sadly, Nigeria has the highest number. It is time for us to tackle this disorder from being carried to the next generation. Awareness is very key as it is important that people know their genotype before getting married. We must together take a deliberate stand against SCD and stop the discrimination against the patients but rather help them overcome their challenges,” Olunaike said.
She however called on religious and traditional leaders to always be in the vanguard of educating their followers on the essence of knowing their genotype while she also advised schools to expose their students to the dangers associated with SCD and how to avoid it by knowing their genotype at early age.