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6 lakh tribal children to be screened

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, April 18 � Nearly six lakh schoolchildren and dropouts of tribal communities in the State will be screened for sickle cell by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs as part of its initiative to prevent its prevalence in the subsequent generations.

The tea garden population will also be included in the list of those to be screened. The Ministry has also decided to issue them health cards indicating their sickle cell status.

The idea behind the initiative is to discourage marriage of an affected person with another person with similar sickle cell status, which according to experts, would make their children vulnerable to the disease.

Dr Hrushikesh Panda, Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, told mediapersons that 100 per cent screening is what the Ministry is aiming to achieve within a year as no clear-cut medication has evolved to treat the disease.

�The disease is common among the tribal population across the country and proper counselling will be done with the help of the health department and the respective district administrations,� Dr Panda said, adding, �Tribals who constitute eight per cent of the country�s population account for 50 per cent malarial deaths. Sickle cell anaemia prevalence is also high.�

He stated that at present the tribal population of Assam is about 38 lakh and if the tea garden population is included, it would be about 50 to 60 lakh. The prevalence rate of sickle cell is 4 to 5 per cent in Assam.

Meanwhile, a two-day training-cum-workshop on sickle cell anaemia organised by the Assam Institute of Research for Tribals and Scheduled Castes, Guwahati under the aegis of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, got under way at the Assam Administrative Staff College today.

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