World Sickle Cell Day: COVID-19 Grinds June 19 Into Dust

JUNE 19, 2019: crowds must be avoided to forestall COVID-19

COVID-19 Grinds June 19 Into Dust

By Ayoola Olajide

I was speaking with a friend who works with the United Nations in New York. A polyglot, she can’t stop – or can’t resist – sprinkling into her conversations a word or two from the native vocabulary of whomever she chats with.

We had a long talk, mostly rimming around personal matters.

It was inevitable we would get round to talking about SCD. A Cuban, Ms Helga Perreira*** was a carrier of the sickle gene. She is passionate about SCD education in Africa, hopeful that in her lifetime, children in primary and secondary school will have coaching in what she calls Elementary Genetics.

June 19 ko, June 91 ni,’ she retorted. ‘Look, there’s nothing like World Sickle Cell Day anymore.’

His Excellency Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General

I observed that the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres had broken from the practice of issuing a statement on World Sickle Cell Day. Ban Ki-moon regularly gave homilies on WSCD, but not Guterres since he assumed the exalted position. Will he do something this year?

 ‘You must be joking,’ she said, breaking out in a flat, dry guffaw, ‘The Secretary General is too busy these days to bother about little things.’

‘Little things?’ I echoed, ‘If SCD was little, the UN would not have designated a World Sickle Cell Day – June 19!’

June 19 ko, June 91 ni,’ she retorted. ‘Look, there’s nothing like World Sickle Cell Day anymore.’

If you are preparing big events for June 19, prune it down, forget it…

The line went dead before I could say anything. No more World Sickle Cell Day? Impossible.

The phone sprang back into life.

2018: A SEA OF HEADS AT THE KABAKA SCD EVENT IN UGANDA. SOCIAL DISTANCING SET AT NOUGHT

The Coronavirus pandemic has grabbed all the attention and ground every other thing – business, tourism, education, human relations, SCD, everything – into dust, Perreira says.

If you are preparing big events for June 19, prune it down, forget it, she advises.

‘Do the big events online – no gatherings, no mingling with crowds and certainly no traipsing through the streets.’

People with SCD should consider observing the Coronavirus rules for life, Perreira adds.

Experts say a non-communicable disease like sickle cell though global in nature, cannot compete for the same level of attention as a fast-spreading, invisible pandemic such as COVID-19. Sickle Cell will never affect everyone in every town, but COVID-19 cab affect nearly everyone, everywhere, including people with SCD!

June 19 will surely come and go, but not with the fanfare that used to accompany its advent since its maiden celebration in 2009. Not this year, at least, when social distancing has become a household expression. Not when gatherings large and small are a cesspool of infective vectors.

***Not Her real name

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