National

Free cure for Sickle Cell disease comes as great relief for Tharus

- THAKUR SINGH THARU, BANKE

Jul 2, 2014-

People belonging to Tharu community have been literally overwhelmed with joy after the government announced free treatment for the victims of Sickle Cell Anaemia, the most common form of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) in its policy and programmes presented in Parliament on June 29. Curiously enough, the hereditary blood disorder, so far, has manifested only in the Tharu community living west from Rupandehi - in Dang, Bardiya, Kanchanpur, and Kailali districts where they have been living since decades.

According to Bheri Zonal Hospital (BZH), some 300 people in these district have been afflicted with SCD. Meanwhile, doctors said that every year a large number of children belonging to the community died from the disease after receiving little or no treatment. There are even instances where people have spent up to Rs 100,000 for the treatment of SCD while others have had to sell their land, the only means of their livelihood, for treatment.

“We have been overwhelmed with joy by the government’s decision and hope that it will be implemented and will not remain in paper only,” said local Bishwo Raj Chaudhary.

As per the policy and programmes made public by the government, free treatment will be provided for the SCD patients in Bheri Zonal Hospital (BZH) in Nepalgunj, Lumbini in Butwal, Rapti in Dang and Mahakali Zonal Hospital in Mahedranagar. Although the government has assured free treatment for the disease, BZH still does not have necessary medical equipments for detection and diagnosis of the disease. The hospital said it has been sending blood samples to India for diagnosis.

The disease had been detected for the first time in Nepal in the year 2003. At that time, only a handful of people had contracted SCD. However, the disease has emerged as a major threat in recent times, mostly afflicting Tharu communities living in the western region of the country.

Meanwhile, giving in to the repeated requests of the District Public Health Office (DPHO), the government has assured to provide necessary equipments and free medicine for the treatment of SCD.

“The government has assured to fulfill our demands by the next fiscal year, which is a positive thing,” said Jiwan Kumar Malla, DPHO Chief, Banke.

The Sickle Cell disease is a hereditary disease in which the patient’s red blood cells (RBC) turns into stiff and abnormal sickle or crescent shape cells, instead of a normal disc-shaped red blood cells with a hole in the middle, blocking blood flow into blood vessels, hence causing various complications.  

Doctors said that owing to the lack of essential equipments for detection and diagnosis of the disease, deaths caused by the disease in the children below five years is often mistaken with pneumonia.

The people with the disease suffer from joint and muscle aches, anaemia, pneumonia and are dependent on medicines for nerve diseases. Doctors have advised that as it was a hereditary disease, it would be best for the Tharu community in the region to opt for inter-caste marriage or test the couples getting married for SCD in order to check the spread of the life-threatening disease.  

Published: 02-07-2014 11:39

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