GHANA’S AMBASSADOR TO US LAMENT SCANTY SUPPORT FOR SICKLE CELL PATIENTS
His Excellency, Lt Gen. Joseph Henry Smith (Rtd), Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States of America (USA), has observed that in spite of the heavy burden of sickle cell disease on public health in Africa, the disease has not received the attention it deserves in public health programming and resource allocation.
Ambassador Smith, speaking at the Masquerade Gala 2015 benefiting the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana and Africa last Friday, July 3, 2015 at the Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian, lamented the inadequate attention given to the disease and said Government alone cannot deal with many of these health problems.
Sickle Cell disease, he said is a major health problem affecting people of African descent, the Mediterranean, the Middle Eastern and Indian origins.
Africans, Ambassador Smith said, have known the disease for centuries, in spite of that sickle cell still remain global problem seeking solution that can benefit hundreds and thousands of people born with the disease worldwide every year.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) he said, reports that sickle cell accounts for more than five (5) percent of all mortality in young children in Africa and as much as 16 percent in some West African countries including, Ghana.
Many families, he noted, across Africa cannot afford to pay for even the inexpensive antibiotics needed to keep children from early death.
Many families, he emphasised, believe sickle cell is a curse from the gods and seek spiritual and other explanation for the disease, adding without education many affected with the disease will remain stigmatized, neglected and unfairly excluded from society because of ignorance.
His Excellency, Ambassador Smith stressed that African governments alone cannot deal with these health issues and that is why voluntary community-based organisations such as Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana and many more are needed to advocate for and support programmes of public awareness, education and treatment for people with sickle cell.
In Ghana, he acknowledged that Doctors have been involved in the study and treatment of the disease since the 1960s but there are only a handful of sickle cell treatment centres concentrated in a few medical centres that serve a small fraction of people with the disease.
It is for this reason that the work of the Sickle Cell Foundation, led by Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, is very important to the country because it is complimenting the efforts of Government of Ghana.
The Sickle Cell Foundation has been working with the government of Ghana and with patient/family support groups to help provide services for thousands of Ghanaians affected directly or indirectly by the disease.
Making an appeal for the Sickle Cell Foundation, His Excellency Ambassador Smith said the Foundation needs the support of all Ghanaians who have the means, especially those in the Diaspora.
Ambassador Smith also commended Ms. Ekua Tandoh and her colleagues for their contribution and support of the Foundation and also thanked the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for supporting Prof. Ohene-Frempong and work he is doing in Ghana.
Prof. Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, speaking on the effects of Sickle cell disease worldwide, lamented the slow pace of support for suffers of the disease and hoped more assistance would be given to centres providing treatment for Sickle Cell patients.