Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, New York
The Delta State First Lady, Dame Edith Okowa, has reflected on how the loss of one of her twins at the age of one year, five months due to sickle cell anaemia turned her into an advocate.
She spoke at a side event on sickle cell anaemia awareness forum with the theme “Sickle Cell Disorder, the forgotten and the neglected: Any hope for the children?” organised by O5 Initiative, her Non-Governmental Charity Organisation and pet project at of the ongoing 74th UN General Assembly.
Mrs. Okowa said: “You may wonder why I am interested in sickle cell anaemia and not cancer, heart condition etc, but I tell you, what you suffer is what you are going to look for a cure.
“I had a first-hand experience of sickle cell anaemia. I had twins as my first issue and I lost one of them due to sickle cell anaemia at age one year, five months and since then it has been a journey.
“I told myself since I have gone through this, no woman should go through the same. That is why I have embarked on educating people to know about their genotype.
“My heartbeat is about sickle cell anaemia, the point is a couple should know their genotype before marriage. Love is good, but when the chips are down that love might not carry it.”
Okowa, who informed her audience that a multi-million naira Sickle Cell Referral Centre was commissioned and donated to the state government, added that the centre located in Asaba Specialist Hospital and the second in Nigeria, will cater to all Sickle Cell patients within and outside Delta State and would also serve as the headquarters of other Sickle Cell Micro clinics spread across the state.
The wife of Ekiti State governor, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, said as wives of chief executives of their states, they had obligations to use that platform for advocacy, political will and to encourage partnership on all range of nutty issues.
“Many of us are working on different issues that concern us like trafficking, gender-based violence, poverty, conflicts among others.”
She called for concerted efforts at the national level to push for the release of resources to address the issues.
Mrs. Fayemi who said she was encouraged by what Mrs. Okowa was doing, said she would go back and find out if there was a sickle cell policy in the state.
She encourage the first ladies on the Governors Wives’ Forum to hold each other to account on the various pet projects.
Edo State First Lady, Mrs. Betsy Bene Obaseki, commended Mrs. Okowa, describing her work in sickle cell anaemia as impressive, noting that some of the equipment in her centre were not found in another national centre.
She commended the Delta State first lady‘s passion for her work, saying she was also going to emulate and begin simile advocacy in her state.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Paul Tallen, in her remark, said the sickle cell initiative should be embraced by the world to make it a better place.
She recalled that Mrs Okowa’s passion stemming from her experience was worthy of emulation by all.
She also commended the Delta State First Lady for also reaching out to prisoners and putting smiles on the faces on those completely abandoned especially women and children.
Tallen urged that those in distress with no one to cater for them should be helped.
“We must find a way and replicate this across Nigeria because there is no state where people suffering from sickle cell anaemia do not reside. They need our total support and bring succour to the women and children and put smiles on their faces again.”