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Sickle cell disease in sub-Saharan Africa

Michael R DeBaun, MD, MPH
Najibah A Galadanci, MBBS
Section Editor
Stanley L Schrier, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


The vast majority of individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD) are born in sub-Saharan Africa, where easy access to high-intensity medical care may be limited to varying degrees.

This topic discusses the challenges of SCD care in sub-Saharan Africa and a general approach to providing comprehensive care for patients with SCD in resource-poor settings.

Additional topic reviews discuss overviews of the management of SCD in resource-rich settings. (See "Overview of the management and prognosis of sickle cell disease" and "Routine comprehensive care for children with sickle cell disease".)


SCD is one of the most common genetic diseases in the world. Over 300,000 babies with SCD are born annually; the majority of these are in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to medical care and public health strategies to decrease mortality and morbidity are not uniformly available [1-4]. This number is expected to increase to up to 400,000 individuals by 2050 [3].

The World Health Organization and United Nations have designated SCD as a global public health problem [5,6]. One of the World Federation of Public Health Associations millennium development goals was targeted at reducing child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 [7]. Despite the major interventions in malaria, HIV, and immunization, most of the 19 countries estimated to have a persistently high under-five mortality rate by 2015 (above 50 per 1000) are in Africa. We believe that the high prevalence of undiagnosed non-communicable diseases, including SCD, contribute to excess mortality in children under five years.


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