It gives me great joy to welcome everyone to this epoch making ceremony of the commissioning of the Variant Newborn Sickle Cell Disorder screening machine donated by the 05 initiative of Her Excellency Dame Edith Okowa.
2. SIckle cell disorder is a public health problem prevalent among adult blacks and one of the world’s foremost genetic disorder, with Nigeria having the highest incidence in the world as one in every four Nigerians has the sickle cell trait. The disorder has proved difficult to control unlike those acquired diseases where Governments at various level in the country have achieved a measure of success and control.
3. Children born with sickle cell disorder have an increase in mortality due to complications arising if not detected early. Several of our mothers and sisters particularly in the rural areas get into marriage without being aware of sickle cell disorder and have babies with hemoglobinpathies that are detrimental to the life of the infant and child.
4. There are several life threatening complications of sickle cell disorder early in life such as pneumonia, sepsis, splenic sequestration crisis etc. This can be avoided if preventive measures are instituted early in newborns with SCD such as pneumococcal vaccination, penicillin prophylaxis, and hydroxyurea treatment.
It is therefore necessary to embark on newborn screening to make early diagnosis of SCD.
5. The newborn screening machine facilitates early detection of babies affected by hemoglobinopathies in order to ensure early intervention and reduce the challenges of morbidity and mortality from sickle cell disorder in infancy and early childhood. The screening is an additional strategy within a prevention program of sickle cell disorder. It was introduced by public health authorities in the last decade to enable early treatment of the affected newborn rather than for prospective primary prevention. The screening is done 24-48 hours after birth and will enable the determination of the birth prevalence of sickle cell disorder in the State.
6. The newborn screening is conducted by collection of samples of dried blood spots (DBS) and running of tests using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
DBS is collected via heel prick from the newborn baby before discharge. The screening tests are carried out by trained laboratory personnel and the results communicated to the mothers. Health Workers have been trained to provide health education on SCD including new born screening during ante-natal visits and collect samples from newborns after birth. Leaflets have been provided to reinforce messages from the health education sessions. Newborns that are diagnosed with SCD are enrolled into a comprehensive health assessment programme in one of our Sickle Cell Clinics and to be followed up by a trained genetic counsellor.
6. The donation of this equipment by the 05 initiative has brought about capacity building for our health workers by the Ministry of Health to enable commencement of the screening of babies for hemoglobinopathies in our Primary, Secondary and Tertiary health care facilities in the State.
7. It is in this regard that special commendation must be made on the activities of the O5 initiative, an interventionist programme of Her Excellency Dame Edith Okowa, Wife of the Governor of Delta State, aimed at bringing succour to those affected by the disorder . Her efforts through the initiative have successfully brought about the establishment of the 13 upgraded sickle cell clinics in some health institutions in the State and a sickle cell referral centre in Asaba. The officials of the Ministry of Heakth are working closely with those of the 05 initiative to ensure that upgraded sickle cell clinics are established in the remaining Local Government Areas in the State, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
8. It is hoped that the newborn screening strategy for hemoglobinopathies will attract referrals from other States and African Countries to Delta State which is poised to render effective management of sickle cell disorder.
9. At this juncture I would like to appreciate the 05 initiative, the various sickle cell clinics, genetic counsellors, care givers and those who have labored ceaselessly to give our Sickle Cell Warriors a new lease of life.
10. Once again I wish to thank His Excellency Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa and Her Excellency Dame Edith Okowa . God bless you for all the progress you have made in improving the health of Deltans.
Dr. Mordi Ononye
Ministry of Health, Asaba.