Brazil has committed a grant of $13.66 million to Ghana for the construction of a Blood and Sickle Cell Centre in Kumasi to facilitate the fight against the disease.
The project would include a blood transfusion centre and out-patient clinic for sickle cell and other blood diseases.
To this effect an eight-member delegation of government officials and technical experts from Brazil are in Ghana to witness a groundbreaking ceremony for the project in Kumasi on Thursday, November 25.
A statement from the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana (SCFG) in Accra at the weekend, said the Brazil-Ghana Technical Co-operation Agreement in Sickle Cell Disease was signed on October 7, 2009 at the closing ceremony of the 5th Brazilian International Symposium on Sickle Cell Disease held in Belo Horizonte.
Under the Agreement, Brazil would assist Ghana to expand the national newborn screening programme, by upgrading the screening laboratory, train the technical personnel, develop the educational and training programmes in the sickle cell disease and provide supplies for the initial expansion of the national screening programme.
Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, President of the SCFG was named as Project Co-ordinator and Mr Edward J.N. Tettey, Acting Vice President for Finance and Administration of the Foundation was listed as the Project Administrator in Ghana, under the Agreement.
Ghana hosted the first Global Congress on Sickle Cell in Accra from July 20 to July 23, which was co-organised by the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Centre at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Sickle Cell Disease International Organisation, the Global Sickle Cell Disease Network and SCFG.
Screening of newborns for sickle cell makes it possible to diagnose the disease early, before symptoms and complications develop.
This allows health workers to educate parents about the special needs of the children and to begin preventive treatment before they develop the complications of the disease.
Many of these complications, especially bacteria and malaria infections can kill young children before parents and doctors even suspect that the victims have the disease.
Before the screening and early diagnosis and treatment, more than 90 per cent of babies born with sickle cell disease in Africa died before the age of five.
Many countries including the US, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Brazil, Cuba, England, France, Belgium, Bahrain, test either all babies or a selected group of newborns at high risk for sickle cell disease.
In Africa, the largest and most advanced of the pilot projects to screen newborns was started at Kumasi-Tikrom, in 1993.
It was initiated from 1993 to 2008 through grants awarded by the National Institute of Health to Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frempong (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, USA) and colleagues in Ghana, led by Professor Francis K. Nkrumah (Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research).
The screening project has continued under the support of the Ministry of Health, National Health Insurance Authority, Ghana Health Service, Noguchi, and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, under the co-ordination of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana.
The national scale-up of newborn screening for sickle cell disease would entail expansion of the newborn screening laboratory at Noguchi with additional equipment and supplies, the training of additional technical personnel, and enhancement of the Information Technology and Communications systems to run the programme.
Every year some 13,000 babies are born with sickle cell disease in Ghana. Many of them die without the diagnosis or treatment of the disease.
By the end of June 2010, the Kumasi-Tikrom pilot newborn screening programme had screened 308,632 babies, found 5,381 to have the disease and enrolled 3,549 of them in the Sickle Cell Clinic established at KATH.
The SCFG was established as a non-profit, non-governmental organisation and membership is open to individuals and professional bodies.
Sickle cell disease is a major public health problem in Ghana and Africa.
In Africa, over 400,000 babies are born with the inherited disease each year.
It is usually passed on to children by parents who are AS or AC, healthy carriers of genes.
About 25 percent of Ghanaians carry genes that can lead to sickle cell. The disease has many features and complications that include anaemia, Pain episodes (“crises”), stroke, lung and joint damage, and overwhelming infections.