…. Seeks legislation for screening for newborn babies
By Festus Ahon, Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, yesterday, said Nigeria “is the headquarters” of sickle cell disorder globally, and called for appropriate legislation for the compulsory test of the disorder for every newborn child across the country.
Making the call while inaugurating newborn Screening equipment for the treatment of sickle cell in the state, Okowa reiterated the determination of his administration to do everything to support the screening of children across the state.
He noted that with the inauguration of the equipment donated to the Sickle Cell Referral Centre, Asaba Specialist Hospital, Asaba, by 05 Initiative of his wife, Dame Edith Okowa, Delta had become the first state in Nigeria to have a “newborn and adult screening machine’’ in one system under High-Performance Liquid Chromatography, HPLC.
Congratulating the 05 Initiative for truly impacting on the lives of the people in several ways, he said: “When the issue of establishing sickle cell clinics across the state came up, I was wondering how they were going to achieve the feat.
“I am glad that they have succeeded in establishing these clinics in 13 hospitals across the state with donations made by our brothers and sisters across the state without the state government contributing a dime into the project.
“Nigeria is the headquarters of sickle cell disorder globally and unfortunately we have not paid more attention to the fight against the disease. It is important that we screen them early enough to prevent them from dying needlessly.
“We need to come out with appropriate legislation that will enable us to make it compulsory for every child that is born to be tested and there is a need to work on this. And I believe that those who have given support will continue to do so and in this regard whatever the government ought to do is to also offer support to ensure that screening is done for our children, we will try to do our best.
“It is in the best interest of this nation to attend to them early enough because a lot of them die within the first six months to one year because we have failed to recognise that they are suffering from sickle cell disorder and we failed to attend to them.
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“It is important that somebody ought to be the role model and I believe Delta State is able to do so, just as we have become the role model in the issue of health insurance to our people.
“Currently we are approaching the one million mark, but it is our hope that we will be able to scale up our health insurance scheme to the two million mark as we approach 2023”.
Earlier in an address, Dame Okowa had said “the inauguration of the newborn screening machine was a dream come true’’.
Thanking God for testimonies coming from patients at the various sickle cell centres across the state, she commended Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele and the member representing Ika Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Mr Victor Nwokolo, for donating the money used for the purchase of the equipment.
On his part, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Mordi Ononye said Sickle Cell disorder was a public health problem among blacks, with Nigeria having the highest cases in the world.
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