Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a neglected health problem in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where
more than half of affected individuals die before their 5th birthday due to preventable
complications. In response, a “Sickle-cell anemia” resolution (WHA59.20) was passed at the
59th World Health Assembly in 2006, urging Member States and the WHO Director-General
to promote and support actions to address SCD. That was followed in 2010 with adoption by
the WHO Regional Office for Africa of “Sickle-cell disease: a strategy for the WHO African
Region” (AFR/RC60/8), which offered a comprehensive situation analysis and roadmap for
implementing priority interventions.
However, despite these and other major policy achievements, as well as increasing
documentation of the substantial disease burden and poor outcomes, the problem of SCD in
SSA remains virtually non-existent on the global agenda. While there have been clear areas
of investment and action, little progress has been made overall in translating the gains made
in high-income countries to resource-limited settings.
This year, in parallel with the 71st World Health Assembly, a half-day roundtable discussion
was held in Geneva to discuss ways forward for public-academic-private partnerships to
positively impact the health of people living with SCD in Africa.