Capturing sickle cell disease as a disability

By Elmer Aluge

People with sickle cell disease live with ‘disabilities’; let’s accept that first. An estimated four million people in Nigeria live with sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic blood disorder with no imminent feasible cure. Yet, just because there is no feasible cure for sickle cell disease does not mean that people living with it cannot enjoy most of the activities other people do. They can if they have the correct information, assistance and support.

So why are so many Nigerians suffering silently and dying of this manageable disease? There are two primary reasons: lack of socio-economic support and poor access to early-onset medical care.

We can start to improve the lives of Nigerians with sickle cell by lifting the taboo over the term “disability.” If we classify this disease as a disability – as many developed nations already do – people with the blood disorder could access State-established social protection programmes, disability-inclusive employment, and subsidised health financing with the National Health Insurance Scheme through the Physically Challenged Persons Social Health Insurance Programme (PCPSHIP).

This op-Ed was originally posted on Punch on July 8, 2022.