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Kisumu set to establish comprehensive sickle cell treatment centre

Kisumu County Government plans to establish a comprehensive Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) Center at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) to respond to the high burden of the condition in the region.

The SCD initiative will be the first of its kind in the country and is poised to serve patients suffering from sickle cell anemia and other blood disorders from Kenya and greater lake region.

The County Chief Officer for Health and Sanitation Dr. Gregory Ganda speaking at his office revealed that JOOTRH is earmarked to be the regional center of excellence for SCD care to offer training, research, and comprehensive care experience.

To actualize the project, the County has partnered with the American Society of Hematology (ASH), Perkin Elmer-Finland, Novartis Pharma, and several other African Countries with interests in SCD. The world class center is expected to be unveiled in June 2022.

The construction of Sh470 million Cancer center at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu. The project is fully funded by the County Government. It was launched two years ago and is expected to be completed by March 2022. Photo by Robert Ojwang’

In Kenya, around 1000 people are born with the condition annually. Most children with SCD die undiagnosed with 50-90 per cent dying before their 5th birthday. Approximately 80 per cent of those with the disease are below 15 years of age.

About 17-21 per cent of children out of 100 in Kisumu County are born carrying sickle cell strains. There is a Sickle Cell anemia clinic at JOOTRH which helps in handling the high number of cases of the disease being reported in the area.

SCD is among the most common inherited diseases worldwide that affects the red blood cells in people’s bodies. The condition usually presents in childhood and is characterized by abnormal, rigid, sickle-shaped red blood cells and is exacerbated by low oxygen levels, dehydration and concurrent illness.

The center will offer a daily sickle cell clinic and is expected to provide therapeutic apheresis in which defective red blood cells are removed and replaced with normal ones through a special machine.

Ultimately, the center will be equipped and capacitated to offer bone marrow transplant services, which will be useful for most haemato-oncological conditions.

Currently, the only available cure for sickle cell disease is bone marrow transplant. The best transplant outcomes are when the donor is a healthy sibling with compatible stem cells. The stem cells replace the sickle blood stem cells and restore normal blood production in children with sickle cell condition.

“This will be the first facility to offer stem cells transplant in the region. We aspire to become a world-class Sickle Cell Disease Management Centre where clients thrive free of fear and full of hope to overcome the pain and suffering associated with sickle cell disease,” says Dr. Ganda.

The county has also initiated negotiations with National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to offer SCD patients comprehensive health insurance schemes, as the treatment costs can be catastrophic to the struggling families.

The noble project is being implemented alongside the comprehensive Cancer and hematology Centre that is still under construction by the county.

The two ground-breaking projects have been integrated because SCD and cancer are both of major public health concern in Nyanza region.

According to Dr. Peter Okoth, a practicing doctor at JOOTRH, “Interventions for Sickle Cell Disease and cancer share some aspects of technologies, expertise, and equipment in the areas of diagnosis, service delivery, training, and research.”

The Sh470 million cancer center was launched two years ago by the county and upon completion in March 2022, it will offer high quality oncology, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and palliative care services.

“Upon completion, the cancer center will make Kisumu a focal point for comprehensive oncology management in the Western circuit and other lake region economic bloc counties,” the County Health CEC Dr. Boaz Otieno Nyunya said.

The center will also help in the reduction of cancer incidences and deaths through access to population based primary prevention, early detection, quality diagnostics, treatment and palliative care.

The two health projects will position Kisumu as the medical tourism hub in Africa and beyond.

By Robert Ojwang’

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