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Sickle Cell Disease
Amway Academy Solar Project
Atsivuta Water Project
Mosaic School Program
Orphanage Project
Queen Esther School
Sokede-Ando Community Sanitation Project
Solarize Ghana
Mafi Primary School, Ghana

Ghana  |  Sickle Cell Disease  RSS Feed  RSS  Subscribe to this Blog

Needs and Capabilities

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a major genetic blood disorder found in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that affects the hemoglobin within the red blood cells. The recurrent pain and complications caused by the disease can interfere with many aspects of the patient’s life, including education, employment and psychosocial development.

The sickle-cell trait is now known to be widespread, reaching its highest prevalence in parts of Africa as well as among people with origins in equatorial Africa, the Mediterranean basin and Saudi Arabia. In Africa, the highest prevalence of sickle-cell trait occurs between latitudes 15° North and 20° South, ranging between 10% and 40% of the population in some areas. The geographic distribution of the sickle-cell trait is very similar to that of malaria. The sickle cell trait has a partial protective effect against malaria, and this may explain why it has been maintained at such high prevalence levels in tropical Africa. Those who inherit the gene from both parents do not have this protection. In addition, they suffer from severe effects of SCD and many die before they reach reproductive age.

Ghana is one of the African countries where the sickle-cell trait and, consequently, Sickle-Cell Disease are highly prevalent (about 20% and 2% respectively), and where SCD is a major public health concern, as it is associated with a very high rate of childhood mortality (50-90%) .

Although control programs exist, Ghana and other African countries have neither the national coverage nor basic facilities to manage patients. Systematic screening for SCD using a simple blood test is not a common practice, and diagnosis is usually made when a severe complication occurs.

Counseling and prevention of causes and infections are simple measures not readily accessible to most patients. As a result, the majority of children with the most severe form of the disease die before the age of five, usually from an infection or severe anemia. The survivors remain vulnerable to exacerbations of the disease and the complications mentioned above.

Thanks to its partnership with local Ghanaian organizations and the Ghanaian Ministry of Health, VIDA understands the issues at hand and has developed a feasible plan to support Ghanaian health facilities in managing this public health concern. By developing a collaboration with a JACIE-accredited Italian Bone Marrow Transplantation Center in Sardinia, the eligible children may be treated with bone marrow transplantation from an HLA-identical family donor, which has been proved to be the only curative therapy in sickle-cell disease patients.

Data and statistics
In partnership with the local Ministry of Health, VIDA collected data on the rates of the patients with Sickle-Cell Disease treated in one Ghanaian region in 2014.
The following table shows in detail the patients’ age and sex month by month: 


As the table shows, the age range of the majority of patients (250 out of 983) was 20-34 years; 358 patients were below 18 years old, whereas 625 were older. Female patients (497) slightly outnumbered the male ones (486).  VIDA is going to conduct a countrywide assessment of the current state of the disease, so updated and complete data will be available soon.

Goals and Activities
The Sardinia-Ghana project is the culmination of several months of planning, assessing, and coordinating with VIDA’s Ghanaian non-profit partners and beneficiary hospitals. The Sardinia-Ghana project aims to treat some Ghanaian children with Sickle-Cell Disease with Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) to offer them the chance for an SCD-free survival and for the improvement of their quality of life. After their arrival in Italy, the children will undergo all the necessary tests to confirm their eligibility for HSCT and will be visited by several specialists. After that, the eligible children will be hospitalized in the semi-sterile area of an hematology ward to be initially treated with chemotherapy in order to destroy their immune system (which will facilitate the engraftment of the new cells that will be infused during the transplant procedure) and will be later moved to the sterile area where they will undergo the hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
As they arrive in Sardinia, the children and their families will be supported by an expert medical interpreter and cultural mediator who has collaborated with the medical staff of a Bone Marrow

Transplantation Center for several years under medical-humanitarian programs. The medical staff of the facilities where the

children will undergo their post-transplantation follow-up phase in Ghana will be trained by an infection prevention control (IPC) and environmental expert who will undertake a detailed technical assessment of the environmental needs to ensure the sterility of local facilities in order to prevent infections in the transplanted children.

In collaboration with the Italian hematologists, the cultural mediator and the environmental expert will hold on-site educational workshops on the management of the post-transplant phase and the necessary IPC measures before the children come back home in Ghana. VIDA will also advocate support from the Ghanaian Ministry of Health for the returned and treated patients.

The project will be completed in four phases.

  • Phase I includes two major activities, one being pre-departure activities including all planning and the identification of the potential patients that could undergo HSCT and their family donors on the basis of HLA-tests (the blood samples will be collected in Ghana and sent to an Italian EFI-accredited HLA-laboratory where the tests will be performed). The second being the promotion of governmental partnership and the creation of a memorandum of understanding with non-governmental organizations and medical facilities to support for the program. This will also include face to face meetings with potential project beneficiaries.
  • Phase II includes in-country activities, including water, hygiene, and sanitation assessments and the departure of the potentially-eligible children and their families to Italy; 
  • Phase III includes pre-transplant visits and tests and hospitalization in Italy. 
  • Phase IV includes the departure from Italy and the post-transplant follow-up phase in Ghana.

Impact of Activities
The Sardinia-Ghana project promotes the improvement of children’s health condition by offering them the chance for undergoing the only curative treatment for their disease and the hope for a Sickle-Cell Disease-free life and a better quality of life in their adulthood. The corresponding educational workshops provided by the Sardinia-Ghana team will promote health education in local health facilities.

To monitor/track progress and success, VIDA uses established metrics including community surveys, which are completed at all program stages. These surveys, which are conducted by VIDA volunteers and local non-profit partners, help VIDA monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of completed projects.  Children’s long-term quality of life will be monitored periodically. Funding from your organization will be an important step in ensuring matching donations from additional institutional donors who are being approached.

VIDA is committed to supporting project beneficiaries by establishing a student scholarship program for returned patients.

It goes without saying that VIDA values the ongoing support of our donors, and we recognize gifts to our organization in a number of ways, including links on our website and donor highlights in our newsletter.


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