SICKLE CELL IMPACT ON WOMEN AND THE GIRL-CHILD IN OUR COMMUNITIES
Distinguish guests, Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour to be here, and I am genuinely humbled.
Sickle cell anaemia is a blood disease that emanates as a result of both parents carrying the sickle cell gene. It has no gender bias but women and the girl child suffer far more complications than their male counterparts and this is what I am here to talk about.
In a country like Sierra Leone with one of the poorest health care and living standards, women and the girl child bear the brunt of all deficiencies in the system. In most cases it ends up with lives being lost. As a grassroots organisation SCCAN uses a holistic approach in tackling the disease. Information collection and dissemination is the key corner stone of our work. We believe that it’s a lot cheaper to prevent the disease from occurring in any child than to cure it. That is why we embark on awareness campaigns to educate the communities on the dos and don’ts of the disease.
Early marriage in poor communities is one of the causes for the adverse advancement of the sickle cell condition.
Due to poverty the girl-child is forced into early marriage and child birth without proper assessment of her condition. In most cases she dies during child birth. We advise parents against early marriage and we emphasise that young adults know their sickle cell status before getting into marriage and child birth.
Poor living conditions of families act as catalyst to send the girl-child into early marriage. Most parents send their girl-child into early marriage as a means of getting out of poverty. We have visited families where the child sleeps on the floor for lack of mattress and without blankets which is not conducive for someone living with sickle cell, as such the least opportunity to get the child into marriage is most welcomed.
The impact of sickle cell anaemia can have far reaching implications for their communities. Sickle cell sometimes generates accusations wherein some family members are sometimes blamed for casting witchcraft spells on the child with the sickle cell thereby creating bad blood in the family. These accusations do have lasting effects on the families.
Sickle cell is known to be responsible for break-up in marriages due to lack of knowledge of the character and make-up of the condition. In some cases some husbands blame their wives for infidelity as the reason for the child’s condition.
Sickle cell is a catalyst for poverty due to loss of income. Family members have to stay at home to look after a sick child resulting in loss of income.
Children suffering from sickle cell anaemia are usually isolated as they are always in pain.
SCCAN facilitates awareness in the communities about the causes and how to manage the condition. We emphasise the need for people to know their sickle cell status and to be able to make informed choices in terms of marriage and child bearing. Apart from awareness campaigns, we support people living with the condition with medication, warm clothing and food. We also disseminate information on how to find ways of coping with pain.
SCCAN is a rapidly growing organisation that is blessed with highly dedicated and very motivated individuals who are committed to rising to the challenges faced by the very large pool of affected patients and their struggling families. While our initial focus area is Kono where we are currently treating over one thousand and six hundred patients, we are working on plans to eventually roll out the scheme nationwide in order to positively touch more lives and save more people from the scorch of this killer menace which goes around silently disrupting families and ravaging communities.
We consider this venture as a serious national mission and a worthy service to humankind. We would welcome any help to realise the aims and purpose of SCCAN.