Central India, home to some of our remaining jungles is inhabited by tribal people. Their healthcare is a matter of concern for HERD Foundation which is making inroads in this direction. We are especially concerned about rampant anemia among these populations. What is more worrisome is that debilitating conditions get worse due to prevalence of Sickle Cell Disorders (SCD) in communities settled here.
These problems are severe in tribal children that makes it essential to ascertain how ubiquitous the disorders are, as well as to gain understanding about their nutritional status. In the course of our work in these parts we know SCD is omnipresent and that anemic conditions are severe, especially in the case of girls. Studies reveal that among children, about 40% females and 27% males are anemic. Many findings suggest high prevalence of anemia in tribal populations.
We know full well that sickle cell anemia has no available cure. What can be done is only manage the symptoms and treat patients for improving on anemic conditions. Complications of the disease are found in both children and adults. Sickle cell anemia varies from person to person. Some people who have the disease suffer from chronic pain or constant fatigue. Proper care and treatment are needed to improve the quality of life and facilitate reasonable health.
SCD is a genetic disease that one is actually born into. This hereditary disease is a death knell for people who are forced to bear with it until their imminent death that often comes early. People live up to forties, fifties or sometimes longer. Sickle cell anemia is a type of anemia in which blood has lower than normal number of red blood cells. The condition can occur even if red blood cells do not contain enough hemoglobin.
In sickle cell anemia, the abnormal sickle cells usually die after only about 10 to 20 days. The bone marrow cannot make new red blood cells fast enough to replace the dying ones. The lifelong disease is inherited by two genes of sickle hemoglobin—one from each parent. People who inherit a sickle hemoglobin gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent have a condition called sickle cell trait. This occurs through mutation (abnormal change) in the gene that instructs the body to produce hemoglobin.
Sickle cell gene is inherited or passed on between family members and is commonly passed on through defective genes from both parents. This can be diagnosed through a blood test. Actually it is consanguinity or marriages within families, a common occurrence in these communities that causes the genetic disorder. Pre-marital counseling on consanguinity is therefore very important for these consanguineous populations to break the pattern.