Saving Lives Of Children with Sickle Cell Anemia in Haiti

August 5, 2015

 

The Need

Haiti has a population of over 10 million people, the vast majority of whom are descendants of people from West Africa. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, with an adjusted net annual per capita income of $781. One in 13 children die before their fifth birthday. It is a tragedy and arguably a moral outrage when children die needlessly. Sadly, children with sickle cell anemia are dying needlessly in Haiti, which has a high prevalence of this inherited disease. In Haiti, until now, a sense of fatalism concerning sickle cell anemia has become a self-fulfilling prophecy – children with sickle cell anemia rarely survive infancy. Ironically, they die of an infectious complication of their disease that could be easily prevented – pneumonia. There ought to be about many patients with sickle cell anemia in Haiti and it is calculated that about 1600 new children are born every year with this disease. In reality, they are rarely seen because of the elevated childhood mortality.

The Opportunity

In 2016, for the first time ever, Haiti will launch a vaccine campaign against the germ which causes pneumonia. This means that Haiti’s children with sickle cell anemia will have a chance for survival. However, Haiti’s doctors and nurses have received no training in how to screen for, diagnose or treat sickle cell anemia or its complications. The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has operated sickle cell centers in Miami for decades. In addition, in partnership with Haitian and American nongovernmental organizations has a two decade track record of success in working with Haitian health providers to improve the health of the Haitian people. We therefore have the capacity to train Haitian doctors and nurses and to institute pilot programs to screen, diagnose and treat children with sickle cell anemia. We are looking for organizations and individuals of goodwill who would like to join in this cause. For further information, please contact Dr. Ofelia Alvarez (oalvarez2@med.miami.edu) or call the Pediatric Advancement Office at 305-243-3956.