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Our commitment to rescue families, children from S Gene — Prof Otoikhian

By Gabriel Ewepu

ABUJA- THE President and Founder, EO Foundation, Prof. Cyril Otoikhian, has warned that children explain why they do not want marriages to continue producing children with Sickle Cell (S) Gene following frightening death rate across the country.

Prof. Otoikhian said the prevalent rate is alarming as Nigeria is the worst hit in Africa, while Edo and Delta states have the highest prevalent cases in the country. The Foundation recently carried out genotype test in a school at Asaba, Delta State as its first free genotype test.

According to him, the EO Foundation has been on aggressive public awareness creation with no sponsorship from any source but he was motivated to embark on the awareness campaign and testing, noting that there is no cure for the disease.

He said: “We are going to let everybody know pointblank that sickle cell anemia disease is a genetic disorder and it does not have a cure and for the fact that it does not have a cure, our duty in EO Foundation is to stop the menace of sickle cell.

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“This means to avoid all processes of reproduction that will lead to giving birth to a new S Gene either being single which we call carriers or double, which we call sufferers. When you discover that you are on the disadvantaged side, take the courage to put off that relationship and don’t allow it to get to marriage. If not, sickle cell gene will continue to spread into every family and it has grave effect on national development as far as productivity is concerned.

“We are saying everybody should know that it does not have a cure, and we will take it to every doorstep in our public awareness campaign including primary, secondary, tertiary institutions even marketplaces and religious bodies because they are at the verge of contracting marriages and these marriages end up in reproduction.

“Those in the religious bodies should be able to accept the fact too that it is a natural occurrence and we don’t see the possibility of a deliverance that would change a genotype that has already been given birth to.

“We want the religious bodies to understand that and help us preach it. Many of them have been supportive though, as they are changing their marriage requirements.”

The Professor of Genetics and Animal Breeding, Delta State University, Abraka, said the death rate is very high and maintenance of sufferers is very expensive because the patient demands blood at every crisis point and the drugs are very  expensive.

A sickle cell patient

“A bottle of 25ml of drugs classified as curative, goes for as high as N80,000 to N120, 000. EO Foundation is asking those companies why they want to make money at somebody’s pain? You discover that the drugs needed to keep them going is no more there because it is out of reach for the poor  and that automatically leads to high death rate.

Said Otoikhian: “76-93 per cent of those under-5 die of sickle cell complications because a lot of them do not have access to medical care. Those in the villages, creeks and areas that are not accessible by road and medical facilities die. The rate is very high, up to 90-95 per cent die annually.

“Then for adults, depending on accessibility to maintenance treatment that are very expensive and not readily available, the death rate is between 65-70 per cent if not more, from age 15 upwards annually in Africa. Even in Nigeria, they die in thousands and unrecorded and depending on the location of the person.”

However, he called on the government to intensify efforts to reduce the sickle cell menace that is steadily ravaging many families.

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He also suggested herbal drugs that are affordable and accessible to maintain the patients.

“In terms of maintenance, we are looking at possible herbal remedies that would be easily accessible and cheap for these persons to bring down basic symptoms, some of which are severe body pains, loss of blood which is anemia; something that can boost their blood production and compensate for the blood cell that dies off easily compared to a normal person because the sickle cell blood cell lasts for 20-24 days and they are gone instead of 90-100 days in normal cells. So these are the areas we are looking at,” he added.

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