Lack of knowledge about the management of sickle cell among coastal residents has led to the continued suffering of children born with the disease.
Renowned pediatrician Dr. Rachael Kariuki noted that a large number of sickler children particularly those in rural settings continued to suffer in silence because of their parents’ ignorance and misinformation.
“Most parents are too scared to acknowledge the disease and some even lock up their children because they find it too embarrassing,” she said
Dr. Kariuki said that the current situation was unacceptable considering the fact that the region was among the places with high prevalence rates.
“The gravity of the situation is not realized yet people from the Coast and Nyanza regions are more predisposed to have the sickle gene than those in central,” said she
She lamented that though 3 out of every 1000 people suffer from sickle cell coastal superstitions and poverty have restricted the access to healthcare.
“Many children from poor households die of late diagnosis or die without being diagnosed even though sickle cell is an ordinary disease that can be managed like malnutrition and trauma,” she explained.
Though there is no known cure for the disease that causes red blood cells to form a rigid sickle shape and reduces the lifespan from the normal 120 days to between 10 and 20 days, advancement in technology and Medicare has helped bring comfort and normalcy in sickler children
Doctors normally prescribe medication to manage the disease and prevent severe complications. These drugs help increase the production of blood cells, manage pain and reduce the risk of certain infections. Parents are also advised to seek medical attention whenever their children suffer from attacks when the abnormal cells clog blood vessels.
Some developed countries have looked to bone marrow transplants to provide a normal life for sicklers, though the high cost, technicalities of finding the perfect match and the possibility that the child’s body might reject the transplanted bone marrow have made it less appealing.
Dr. Kariuki reiterated that unlike before where sickler children were condemned to dying early, modern medicine available in Kenya can help them grow to lead normal lives with medication and vaccination to prevent attacks.
“The oldest known person living with sickle cell in Kenya is 65 years, so there is hope for the little ones,” she said.