President of Rhesus Solution Initiative (RSI) Mrs Olufunmilayo Banire has disclosed that no fewer than 4.9 million Nigerian women are Rhesus negative.
Rhesus disease is a condition which affects an unborn baby when its mother’s immune system generates antibodies which attack the baby’s red blood cells.
Mrs Banire said this on Thursday during Rhesus Factor Day Lecture/Fundraising at MRC Hall, LASUTH, Ikeja, Lagos.
If such babies die in Yoruba, Southwest Nigeria, Mrs Banire said, they are called Abiku.
According to her, the prevalence of Rhesus negative women in the country varies between five and 9.5 percent with higher occurrence of about 44.7 percent amongst the Yoruba race.
“As part of research, our own statistics from our free blood group and Rhesus status test at different awareness campaigns across many parts of Lagos shows that 228 out of 3,796 persons screened are Rhesus negative, which represents 6.01 percent. The population of women in Lagos State was 8.43 million (2006 census) and with a 3.2 percent annual growth rate, we have estimated women population to 10.32 million this year. If we assume that 50 percent are in child bearing age, we have a population of 5.16 million. If 6.01 percent of those in child bearing age are Rhesus negative, this gives us a population of about 310, 000 Rhesus negative women in Lagos State alone. If the same analysis is done with the population of Nigeria, which is about 162 million (as at 2011), we will have about 4.9 million Rhesus negative mothers,” she said.
Mrs Banire said her organisation has donated free RhoGAM injection to about 600 financially challenged Rhesus negative mothers across general and private hospitals, primary health centres and maternities, traditional and religious birth homes in Lagos and Ogun States.
“At our office, over 800 women who were referred to us from different health facilities have benefitted from free counseling. We have trained over 50 volunteers and almost 500 traditional and religious birth attendants on the importance of blood group and Rhesus factor and all its associated details,” she said.
Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor of Public Health, Dr Yewande Adeshina hailed the organisers for the vision and foresight in selecting the theme, ‘Rhesus Factor Awareness: A contributory effort towards improving maternal and child health’.
Dr Adeshina said the theme could not have been chosen at a better time than now that the state government is in the process of scaling up laboratory services for basic tests, including Rhesus Typing, as part of its Primary Health Care Revitalisation Policy towards improving child health and reducing maternal mortality.
She restated the need for more awareness on the part of the stakeholders to making Rhesus incompatibility a thing of the past.
On the part of government, Dr Adeshina assured participants that structures have been and will continue to be sensitized on Rhesus Factor Incompatibility with community awareness and mobilization, in addition to training and retraining of the health workers on management of the disease.
“Currently, the challenge is not in the diagnosis but with the availability of the RhoGAM Anti D Serum due to the cost implication. A dose of RhoGAM injection cost N15, 000 which makes it almost unaffordable for our patients at the grassroots level. This is where the Rhesus Solution Initiative has magnanimously bridged the gap by providing the RhoGAM for free to our patients at Primary Health Care Centres, saving may babies’ lives and keeping many families hopeful,” she said.
She urged stakeholders in the health system to emulate the visionary project by the Rhesus Solution Initiative and assist the government to provide affordable care to its citizenry, noting that state government cannot provide free health for the 20.5 million residents.