By Treezer Michelle Atieno
In a significant milestone for healthcare in Kisumu County, the year 2021 witnessed the unveiling of a groundbreaking initiative – the Sickle Cell Disease Newborn Screening and Early Intervention Project. Alongside this vital endeavor, a Comprehensive Care Center was established at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH). The primary goal of these endeavors was to effectively tackle the high burden of sickle cell anemia in the region.
“Sickle Cell Disease is a silent but devastating condition, especially for our children,” emphasized Deputy Governor Dr. Mathew Owili during the launch. “Our project aims to change that narrative by ensuring early diagnosis and targeted interventions for affected children.”
The launch ceremony was a momentous occasion for Kisumu County. This initiative aimed to respond comprehensively to the pressing health challenge of sickle cell disease in the region.
In Kenya, it is estimated that 6,000 children are born with this disease each year. Tragically, between 50 to 80 percent of these children don’t reach their fifth birthday due to a lack of access to proper care and early interventions.
One promising development highlighted during the launch was the inclusion of Hydroxyurea, a crucial medication for sickle cell disease, in the essential medicines list by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA).
Deputy Governor Dr. Mathew Owili emphasized the importance of newborn screening in saving the lives of children affected by sickle cell disease.
“The project will help early diagnosis and prompt treatment of the disease,” he noted. He also announced efforts to reduce the financial burden on caregivers by exploring ways to lower the costs of medications provided outside County facilities.
Kisumu’s commitment to tackling sickle cell disease goes beyond its borders. The County has forged partnerships with institutions like Maseno University and Great Lakes University of Kisumu, contributing to research and training in the field.
The then Minister and Chief Officer for Health and Sanitation for Kisumu County Dr. Gregory Ganda revealed that JOOTRH’s Comprehensive Care Center aspired to become a regional center of excellence for sickle cell disease care, encompassing training, research, and comprehensive care. He stated, “Key areas of focus in the National program include awareness creation, education, community engagement, advocacy, and capacity building and training of healthcare workers.”
This laudable initiative was supported by various partners, including the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and the Perkin Elmer of Finland.
By addressing the significant burden of sickle cell disease through early screening, interventions, and comprehensive care, Kisumu took a vital step toward a healthier future for its children and communities. The County’s collaborative approach with both local and international partners demonstrated its determination to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by this challenging genetic disorder.