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Sickle cell anaemia mistaken for witchcraft in Western, Nyanza.

Western and Nyanza regions have a high prevalence of sickle cell anaemia but there is low knowledge of the condition among residents.

Many deaths recorded of children under five years are a result of the condition but residents are not aware and mistake them deaths o be from either malaria or witchcraft.

A study conducted jointly by the World Health Organization and Masinde Muliro University shows the two regions account for up to 30 per cent of sickle cell anaemia cases in the country per year.

At least 300,000 infants are born with the disease in the world, 70 per cent of them in Africa, according to WHO.

A study by researchers from Masinde Muliro University and Ball State University (USA) found that Kakamega county has the highest number of sickle cell anaemia and under-five mortality in Western followed by Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga counties.

In Nyanza, Siaya has the highest cases followed by Kisumu, Homa Bay and Kisii.

The findings were disseminated during a presentation in the just concluded 13th International Multi-Disciplinary Conference at Masinde Muliro University.

Lead researcher Prof Winnie Mucherah of Ball State University said Western and Nyanza account for between 20 and 30 per cent of the cases reported annually in the country.

During the study, she said, it was found that had children with the disease die before reaching the age of five and it is mistaken for malaria or being bewitched.

'Majority of them have never been diagnosed and when they died, couples especially mothers, were blamed for giving birth to children with the condition,' Mucherah said.

Sickle cell anaemia is a genetic disease resulting from an abnormality in the oxygen carrying protein haemoglobin (haemoglobin S) found in red blood cells.

Director School of Nursing, Ball State University, Dr Linda Siktberg said the condition can be managed if detected early.

Siktberg said the use of drugs reduces pains by 50 per cent as well as rising haemoglobin levels in the body.

'Kenya and other developing countries in Africa have the highest number of mortality rates for infants under five years with sickle cell anaemia. This disease, if well managed, one can live to up to 70 years,' Siktberg said.

Sheilah Abebe from Ball State University School of Nursing recommended that couples go for screening for the disease before getting married so they can be counselled on how to manage their children in case they are born with it.

Abebe also urged the government to carry out extensive awareness campaigns to save thousands of Kenyans suffering from the disease and also cater to the treatments.

Masinde Muliro Vice Chancellor Prof Joseph Bosire said they are in need of Sh110 million to put up a Sickle Cell Anaemia centre at the university for screening, diagnosing, treating and counselling.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Jun 26, 2019
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