*As Anambra State celebrates sickle cell anemia Patients*
The words “joy and sense of belonging” best described the mood of sickle cell anemia patients in Anambra
State and its environs on Saturday, September 12, 2015 as people from all works of life converged to the headquarters of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) Awka in commemoration of the hidden treasures (sicklers).
[Cover photo: Cross section of people during the sickle cell walk]
Termed “Anambra Walks to Life 2015”, the celebration which was first of its kinds in the history of Sicklers worldwide began with a-three hour walk from ABS through the popular UNIZIK Junction, Eke-Awka main market, Amenyi, Aroma junction to ABS amidst cheers and merriment.
Aisha Edward, the Coordinator of ASPLSCD while speaking to the press
It was organised by Aisha Edward, the National Coordinator of Association of People Living With Sickle Cell Disorder (APLSCD) through the sponsorship of the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor; His Grace Christian Efobi, the Anglican Bishop of Aguata Diocese; Anambra State Ministry of Health represented by its Commissioner, Dr. Joe Akabuike; Chief Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State; Dr Peter Egenti, Chairman of Anambra State Local Government Service Commission; Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria Anambra State Council headed by Pharmacist Chisom; Chief Nwobu-Alor; NDLEA, News48hrs.com, and others.
A cross section of sicklers during the programme
Speaking at the occasion, the National Coordinator of Association of People Living with Sickle Cell Disorder (APLSCD), Aisha Edward lamented that sickle cell anemia patients have been relegated to the background by their parents, friends, relatives, religious, government and society at large, while some unscrupulous elements use their unsolicited circumstances to amass wealth from innocent donors.
Edward, therefore, appealed to the general public and professionals to stop stigmatizing them, and in furtherance provide them with enabling environment to create wealth and employment to the teeming populace through their God’s giving skills and talents, as well as to empower and employ lots of them, because according to her, they are able, more qualified and capable to change the world.
Aisha while the gathering observed a minute silence in the honour departed sickle cell patients
On his part, Dr. Joe Akabuike, the State Commissioner of Health disclosed that although sickle cell anemia is not curable, it could be prevented and wipe-off from existence in the next ten years through constant information dissemination via the media, churches, and other agents of socialization.
Akabuike, who further added that the ministry will look into the sickle cell law said to have been passed into law since 2002 to ensuring its functionality, advised the general public, especially the intending couples to always discover their health status to ensure their genes are compatible for marriage.
Association of People Living with Sickle Cell Disorder in group picture with their coordinator, Aisha and some guets at the occasion
Also speaking, Hon. Obinna Emenaka, member representing Anambra East State Constituency at the State legislative arm regretted that people still go ahead and marry even when they were fully aware of their genotypes, and vowed to sponsor a motion in the hallow chamber to ensuring the fully implementation of the passed sickle cell law.
This is even as Dr. Peter Egenti, the Chairman of Anambra State Local Government Service Commission promised to provide 21 job slots to sickle cell patients in the 21 Local Government Area of the state, even as he advised the government, among other stakeholders to intensify effort towards educating the populace from nursery to tertiary institution level on the nitty-gritty of genotypes and marriage.
Dr. Peter Egenti, Chairman of LGS Commision while speaking to the press after the programme
On why Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) chose to partner APLSCD, Uche Nworah, the MD/CEO of the State owned broadcast media said it was sequel to Aisha foundation’s numerous impacts in a short time of existing in the country.
While stressing that everyone is entitled to freedom of existence, the Executive Director of Civil Rights Concern, Okey Onyeka called on the government at all level to provide for the plights of the sickle cell patients in the 2016 budget, and channel same through APLSCD, because according to him, it is the only genuine association for the sicklers in Nigeria.
While Aisha was distributing some first aid box donated to the sicklers by herself, Catholic Bishop of Awka diocese and Anglican Bishop of Aguata Diocese, and PSN Anambra state council
In an interview, a sickler, who won Miss Tourism Zamfara 2015, Queen Oluohu Alice, while advising her colleagues to avoid strenuous activities, and to be mindful of their environments, beckoned on the society to desist from pitting them, but rather motivate and empower them as they do to non-sickle cell patients.
Highlights of the occasion after a walk were donation of 67 first aid boxes, 5 roles of anti-malaria drugs, glucose, and others to sickle cell patients, a minute silence kept in the honour of departed sicklers, and entertainments.
Okechukwu Onuegbu, Awka