JIS News

The Sickle Cell Unit at the University Hospital of the West Indies has been lauded for its track record of excellence in research and treatment, by the Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Evadne Coye.
Speaking recently at the Annual Gala & Awards of the Seed of Life Philanthropic Organization (SOLPO) in Toronto, Canada, the High Commissioner highlighted what was being done in Jamaica to reduce the incidence of sickle cell disease.
She informed the audience that one child in every 150 births in Jamaica is afflicted by the disease, and because of this high incidence, Jamaica places much importance on sickle cell awareness, treatment and research.
High Commissioner Coye pointed out that not only does the Sickle Cell Unit operate clinics for over 5,000 patients with the disease, but it also attracts research fellows from numerous countries around the world.
The High Commissioner also cited the Jamaican Cohort Study conducted between 1973 and 1981, in which 100,000 newborns were screened for sickle cell.
“Jamaica was the first country to have conducted this scale of newborn screening and to have maintained the monitoring of all surviving patients to this day. The Cohort Study has improved survival and quality of life for patients, allowing accurate observation of the natural history of the disease,” she added.
The High Commissioner called for greater collaboration between countries to tackle the disease. “I certainly believe that with the large numbers of Jamaicans and other African and Asian diaspora people in Canada, sickle cell research should be among the fields of effective bilateral collaboration,” she stressed.
Several speakers pledged their support in spreading the word, including former Member of Parliament, Jean Augustine and Member of Parliament, Judy Sgro.Also speaking at the function were the High Commissioners from Ghana and Nigeria.
SOLPO was formed in 2005 “to help those living in abject poverty, with incurable diseases.” The organization is presently focusing on increasing awareness of sickle cell disease, a genetic blood disorder which is deadly and debilitating.
The founder of SOLPO, Nigerian-born Lanre Timothy Tunji-Ajayi, whose brother died from complications of the disease, is on a quest to tell at least 10 persons each week about the disease and encourage them to get genetic testing done.
High Commissioner Coye also presented Seed of Life’s Media Award of Excellence to Jamaican-born broadcast journalist, Karlene Nation for her work in bringing awareness of the disease to the public. Miss Nation is the Diversity Producer at CFTO television in Toronto.
“Miss Nation is carrying the awareness torch here in Canada. She reflects he same concern which inspires all who participate in public education to drastically reduce the incidence of sickle cell disease,” said High Commissioner Coye.
Also presented with awards for their effort in advancing awareness of the disease were Warren Salmon, Community Award; Dr. Olaniyi Ajisafe, Medical Award; Garth Riley, Media Award; and Joseph Bodun Macaulay, Humanitarian Award. Two students who suffer from the disease were awarded scholarships.

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