Stories of Change
- HEALTH IS WEALTH -
Alain (name changed) is a four-month-old child, born with unusually pale skin. A few months after his birth, he had an acute illness with fever and difficult breathing. His mother was very poor and also had to support four other children. She took Alain to Mother Teresa Healthcare Centre, near her home in Lubumbashi, D. R. Congo. The doctors diagnosed him with Sickle-Cell Disease (SCD). It is the only centre dedicated to the treatment of SCD in the entire D. R. Congo and therefore a lease on life for Alain and many others!
Sickle-Cell Disease (SCD) is a genetic, life-long blood disorder. The prevalence of SCD is highest in regions where malaria is endemic. Of the people affected who do not receive medical treatment, 50% die after less than five years. Survivors suffer multiple organ failures, shortening their life span. The majority of SCD patients are children below the age of five. The social stigma associated with the disease is very high and contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion of patients.
In the D. R. Congo, infrastructure for diagnosis and treatment of SCD is scarce to non-existent. Therefore, SOFIA ventured to support the establishment of an SCD centre in the country, also offering surgical intervention and referral to specialized structures in case of need.
The health centre provides systematic screenings and services for free or at a reduced price for people who cannot afford to pay. This can be done thanks to the revenues from the new maternity clinic and the support of some donors. The centre also fights communicable diseases and sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS. Patients benefit from free pre-counseling with successive referral to specialists in Lubumbashi. Over the period of June – December 2015, it treated 326 patients with sickle cell disease. The numbers registered remained constant in 2016 and 2017.