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Sickle Cell Bill to make blood test a must for intending couples passes 2nd reading

PIB passes first reading in Senate

A bill on sickle cell anaemia on Tuesday passed second reading at the Nigerian Senate.

The bill targets to prevent, control, manage as well as curb preventable deaths and avoidable hardships caused by the disease.

The bill sponsored by Senator Sam Egwu, from Ebonyi State, also seeks to prevent persons who are carriers (AS and SS) of the diseased gene from marrying other carriers.

To achieve this, Egwu said there was need to place a statutory duty on the Federal Government to engage in and encourage the prevention, control and management of the occurrence, spread and effect of sickle cell anaemia.

In his lead debate, Mr Egwu said the prevalence of sickle cell anaemia in Nigeria has risen to an alarming proportion, yet little is known about it and far little is done about it.

The former governor of Ebonyi State said that the legislation would enable the Ministry of Health to direct, coordinate and supervise the prevention, control and management of the disease.

Among other things, Egwu said that it would also empower the ministry to accredit reputable public and private hospitals and medical clinics across the country, including the rural areas, to function as accredited participants in the prevention, control and management of the disease in Nigeria.

“It will ensure that these campaigns, sensitisation and services are taken to the rural areas across the nation where majority of the citizens are ignorant of this disease and do not carry out the relevant tests to ascertain their genotype before getting married.

“Proper sensitisation of the rural dwellers and accessibility of the blood testing services, which this bill seeks to enhance, will lead to an appreciable reduction in the number of fresh cases in a short time.”

“It will attract no significant additional cost to the government because it is not setting up any new body or commission; its implementation is to be carried out by the Federal Ministry of Health,” Mr Egwu noted.

“It will, however, lead to achievement of better results through better utilisation of resources, stronger political will, greater mutual accountability and more research in the area of Sickle Cell Disease and these efforts will culminate in reduced morbidity and mortality caused by the disease,” he said.

Egwu added that the Senate would have played its part “in bringing to an end the unfortunate and preventable hardships and deaths which hundreds of thousands of innocent young Nigerians are subjected to on yearly basis,” should they pass the bill.

After some lawmakers contributed in support of the bill, it scaled second reading and was referred to the Senate Committee on Health for further legislative work.

The committee was asked to report back in four weeks.

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Sickle cell anaemia is a health challenge that distorts the red blood cells which mostly result in severely painful blood clots and is among the top genetic haemoglobin disorders.

Nigeria is said to have 24 per cent of its population as carriers of the deadly disease, World Health Organisation (WHO), said.

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