Tanzania Opens Its First Bone Marrow Transplant Center and Marks History for Sickle Cell Treatment

Listen to this story

On Wednesday, May 10, Tanzania marked medical history in the nation with its first bone marrow transplant clinic opening in the capital city of Dodoma. 

The clinic is an extension of the Benjamin Mkapa Hospital, and will primarily focus on treating patients with sickle cell disease. The center was established after the government allocated 2.7 billion Tanzanian shillings (equivalent to about 1.1 million US dollars) to the healthcare service in order to reduce the cost and difficulty to receive treatment in the country. President Samia Suluhu Hassan also set aside funds for medical equipment, medicine and specialized training for healthcare workers. 

Director of the Benjamin Mkapa Hospital, Dr. Alphonce Chandika, said the establishment of this clinic marks a “milestone” in Sub-Saharan Africa, as sickle cell anemia disproportionately affects people of African descent. 

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that occurs when a faulty gene trait gets passed down from parents. People with sickle cell disease produce abnormal red blood cells that die at a much earlier rate, and this can cause serious health complications, pain and discomfort. 

“Children who are born with sickle cell undergo pain and experience low blood counts,” said Tanzania Minister for Health, Ummy Mwalimu in an interview with allAfrica. “They also miss classes for several months.” 

Mwalimu also highlighted that in Africa, about “300,000 children are born with Sickle Cell.” Out of that number, 11,000 of those children can be found in Tanzania, and only about half of them are currently receiving clinical treatment. More than half these children die before the age of five due to health complications with the disease. 

According to the World Health Organization, over “66% of the 120 million people affected worldwide by sickle cell disease live in Africa.” 

In the United States, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reported that the majority of sickle cell patients in the U.S. are African Americans with “about one in every 365 Black or African American babies [being] born with sickle cell disease.”

This bone marrow transplant clinic is the second one to be founded in Sub-Saharan Africa. The only other bone marrow transplant center in Sub-Saharan Africa is in South Africa. Tanzania is reported to be the fourth ranking country with the highest concentration of sickle cell disease. 

“The strengthening of specialized and super specialized services in the country has reduced the huge cost which was being incurred by the government in order to enable the needy patients to access the [sickle cell] services abroad,” Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa said at the clinic’s launching event reported by allAfrica.

You May Also Like