Nigeria is set to host the first continent-wide conference on sickle cell disease, an ailment which has been described as one of the world’s most common genetic diseases, affecting an increasing number of people but is still relatively unknown to the wider public.
The maiden African Congress on Sickle Cell Disease (ACSCD), with the theme: “Overcoming Sickle Cell Disease – The Power of the Collective Voice,” would hold at the Landmark Centre, Victoria Island in Lagos from October 31 to November 2, 2019 under the “high patronage” of Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR.
The ACSCD International Coordinator, Amb. Eddie Resphanto stated that “globally, and in Africa, the growing burden of sickle cell disease is undeniable. It poses a significant public health problem notably in sub-Sahara Africa and especially in Nigeria.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 300,000 children are born annually with sickle cell disease worldwide, and over 75 per cent of the affected children are born in Africa where over 1,000 babies are born with the disease every day and about 50-90 per cent of these children die before age five (5).
“More than half of the world’s sickle cell disease population lives in Africa, which accounts for about 66 per cent of the estimated 120 million people in the world living with the disease. Besides the very high prevalence rates in Africa and mostly in Nigeria, Africa also accounts for high under-five mortality rates due to preventable complications,” the statement said.
Amb. Resphanto explained that the three-day conference was carefully designed to address some of the notable gaps among other challenges.
“The impact of sickle cell disease on affected communities cannot be overstated: it ranges from causing high morbidity and mortality, to reducing the quality of life, and imposing a high socio-economic burden on individuals, families and health systems.
“Although development in recent years has seen Sickle Cell Disease recognized by both the United Nations (UN) and the WHO as a non-communicated disease of major and growing importance, it is still considered to be one of the most neglected tropical disease in Africa.
“The overall goal of the conference is to facilitate active exchange of information among scientists, researchers, policy makers and other relevant key stakeholders, to highlight challenges and opportunities, and enhance strategies to further sickle cell control in Africa,” Amb. Resphanto said.
ACSCD, which is being organized by Dr. SickleCell Centre for SCD in association with Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation and supported by a host of sickle cell organizations across Africa, is set to bring together government representatives, inter-governmental organizations, leaders of industry, civil society organizations, academic institutions, donors, the private sector, media and individuals living with sickle cell themselves from across Africa and rest of the world with aligned interest in exploring sustainable solutions to the challenges of sickle cell disease.
On Friday, July 12, 2019, members of the African Congress on Sickle Cell Disease(ACSCD) Steering committee led by the Chief Medical Director, Dr. SickleCell & ACSCD Chairman, Dr. David Ajaere had the ACSCD 2019 briefing with the high patron of the congress, H.E Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at the Presidential Library in Abeokuta, His Excellency commended the efforts of the entire ACSCD committee, including all partners and supporters working to make the congress a success, reiterating that sickle cell disease is a significant public health burden especially for the African continent and urges every vested individual and organization to seek solutions to it as a collection.
“We need to come together and address the burden of sickle cell disease ourselves first before we call on other parts of the world to join in and help” H.E Obasanjo said.
ACSCD Chairman, Dr. David Ajaere also stated the need for the support and sponsorship from reputable individuals and organizations with aligned vision in overcoming sickle cell disease in Africa to ensure the success of the congress.
Dr. Ajaere further mentioned that “ The challenges of sickle cell disease cannot be overcome by any single organization alone, it takes an holistic approach whereby partnership are forged by individuals and organizations with aligned interest and vision in a bid to overcoming sickle cell disease in Africa.”
Also present at the ACSCD 2019 briefing were Dr. Lanre Makinde (CEO, Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation & co-Chair ACSCD), Rev. Amos Ogungbayi (ACSCD Advisory Chair), Mr. Eddie Ejehu (ACSCD Advisory co-Chair) and Amb. Eddie Resphanto (ACSCD International Coordinator).
Interested participants can register by visiting http://www.acscd.org or follow @acscd_conf on social media to subscribe and stay updated on the latest information on other necessary details.