In Assam, India, the union tribal affairs ministry will cover at least six lakh tribal children under its sickle cell anemia screening program within this year. Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary blood disorder that results in abnormality in hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the body parts.
"Sickle cell anemia is highest among malaria patients. Fifty percent of the malaria cases in the country have been found to be among the tribals although they constitute only eight percent of our total population," secretary of the union tribal affairs ministry Hrusikesh Panda said. "So we decided to launch a campaign and will conduct screening of the five to six lakh children of about 60 lakh tribal population in Assam. It will cover children aged between three to 13 years. Each test costs only Rs.2 to Rs.3."
The ministry today organized a workshop of health and other related department officials in six states of the north-east. "A person having sickle cell trait will have no problem but the person marries a person having the same trait, their children will suffer from sickle cell anemia," he said.
Those screened will be provided with a health card, which would provide information regarding the sickle cell trait and prevent spread of the disorder. Panda said about 60% of the tribal children in Gujarat had already been screened under the campaign and it was underway in Odisha, West Bengal and other states.
A team will be formed in each district comprising doctors, ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwife) and anganwadi
workers who will conduct the tests in schools. They will also cover the drop outs. "In Assam, we will cover the children of tea garden workers even as they are yet to be given the status of tribal. But they have tribal characteristics," he added.