In a span of 12 months, there has been almost 20 percent rise in the number of deaths caused by sickle-cell anaemia in Gujarat. In the last three years alone, a total of 194 people died in the state due to this genetic blood-disorder, even as Gujarat government targets to eradicate sickle-cell disease among new-born children by the year 2020.
“There is a high prevalence of sickle-cell anaemia in the tribal areas of Gujarat and southern India,” stated Anupriya Patel, minister of state, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in the Lok Sabha recently.
According to the data shared by the minister, 194 people died of sickle-cell disease in Gujarat during the three years beginning 2013-14. The number of deaths in the state has also increased from 58 in 2014-15 to 70 in 2015-16.
The deaths have risen, despite the number of morbid cases dipping to 2,214 in 2015-16, from the 4,509 that existed a year ago.
“In order to create awareness amongst the population, certain activities are undertaken at the state-level, like screening, prenatal and post-natal counselling, diagnosis and treatment of cases,” the minister stated in her reply.
The latest update on screening of sickle-cell incidence in states as on July 25, 2016 by the ministry of tribal affairs, show that Gujarat has the highest incidences of sickle-cell anaemia where about 86.44 lakh people have already been screened for the disease. Of those screened, 7.29 lakh people are found to have the sickle cell “trait”, while 29,266 were found to be suffering from the disease, states the data shared by the minister.
Maharashtra is another state which has high number of tribal population – about 1.69 lakh – having the “trait”, while 14,141 persons suffer from sickle-cell disease. Odisha (2,999 persons), Chhattisgarh (590), Madhya Pradesh (312), Jharkhand (3) are some of the other states were the local population is found to have this disease. In Gujarat, the sickle-cell anaemia control programme was started in five districts – Surat, Tapi, Navsari, Valsad and Dangs – in the year 2006. It was later expanded to all 12 tribal districts of the state. In 2011, the state government’s programme also received the Prime Minister’s Civil Services Award.
In Gujarat, the major tribes that have this disease are Dhodia, Dubla, Kukna, Gavit, Chaudhary, Halpati, Varli, Kokni, Kathodi, Kolcha, Kotwadia, etc. Gujarat’s Principal Secretary (Public Health and Family Welfare), JP Gupta says, “We have completely scanned all the 92 lakh tribal population living in Gujarat. We have digitalised the data and now we are devising interventions were our emphasis is on maternal and child care… We are definitely on the path of achieving our target of wiping out sickle cell from new-borns by 2020.”
The screening under this programme covers all age groups from new- born to old age people. The main target group for the screening is adolescents, antenatal and new-borns.
According to Gupta, Gujarat government has been trying to create social awareness among the tribal population which largely survives on a “maize-based diet that is low in iron”. “We have also been counselling couples about marriage,” he added.
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