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Kisumu launches a newborn sickle cell screening centre

Kisumu County Government has launched a Newborn Sickle Cell Screening Centre at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) to respond to the high burden of the condition in the area.

Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of Health (MOH), Dr Mercy Mwangangi, presided over the launch of the project which is a partnership between the County Government and Novartis East Africa

The goal of this initiative will be to provide screening of newborns for early detection and treatment of sickle cell anemia and other blood disorders in the country.

Dr Mwangangi said data and information are an important part of dealing with sickle cell, therefore, the MOH is exploring the establishment of a Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) register and an electronic medical health record system.

She said the data would help the ministry to account for and allocate resources for sickle cell management and treatment.

She stated that they would embark on rigorous training of health care workers in the sector to ensure they were able to provide the needed interventions and care.

“I would also like to take note of the medication issue. We’ve heard from our partners from America that there are pediatric formulations that are coming our way. It’s a challenge for us as a ministry to ensure that these formulations are available,” she pointed.

She recognized that the MOH together with partners need to do more for sickle cell patients, caregivers and warriors in terms of medication and newborn screening.

Dr Mwangangi assured the stakeholders that sickle cell interventions would be made available at the primary level especially the health centers at sub-county and grass-root levels.

She called upon the Ministries of Health and Education to partner through the school health programme in sensitizing teachers on sickle cell disease and how to handle those affected.

Speaking during the launch, Deputy Governor, Dr Mathews Owili, said the County Government remains committed to saving the lives of children as part of their efforts aimed at achieving sustainable development goal number 3.

“Newborn screening will go a long way in saving the lives of children afflicted by SCD through early and targeted intervention,” he noted.

With an average of 21 out of 100 children in Kisumu County being born with SCD, it is earmarked to be the index county of implementation for the national SCD programme anchored under the 5-year MOU between Novartis and the MOH.

“Kisumu County is one of those with the highest SCD burden but we have had unprecedented levels of collaboration across the innovation ecosystem to address this global health crisis,” mentioned Dr Owili.

The programme will focus on awareness creation of SCD, education and community engagement, advocacy and capacity building.

In his remarks, the CECM, Dr Gregory Ganda, said the County Government spent Sh100 million on health infrastructure last year and they have set aside Sh50 million to improve the sector this year.

He said they were interested in a sustainable partnership as a department and lauded Novartis and other partners for the help they had rendered the department so far.

By Evangeline Mola and Lorine Awino

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