Anera provides essential meds to make SCD treatment affordable
Sickle cell anemia is among the most common hemoglobinopathies in Lebanon. The hereditary blood disease causes numerous disorders, from extreme pain to infections, strokes, and the fatal acute chest syndrome.
Lebanon’s deteriorating economy and high poverty rate make it hard for patients to pay for treatment. Many have had to discontinue or turn to cheaper methods, eventually putting their health at risk.
Looking to address this health challenge, Anera has partnered with Hikma to distribute hydroxyurea, an anti-cancer medication also used for sickle cell disease. Hikma is a British pharmaceutical company, founded in 1978 in Jordan. Their global operations also include humanitarian aid.
Anera also partnered with Health Care Society, a non-profit organization in Beirut, to reach a wide range of patients, especially in northern Lebanon which reports the highest number of sickle cell anemia cases.
Ahmad Mahmood Chehade lives in Lebanon. He is a twice-refugeed Palestinian. First he lived in Syria’s Khan Dunoon camp and, now, for the past nine years he’s lived in Lebanon’s Nahr El Bared camp. Ahmad has been undergoing treatment for eight years to ease his pain:
“Sickle cell has caused me great pain and suffering over the years. I’m always tired, and have to go to the hospital every few months. I wouldn't want anyone to go through what I’m going through. It’s really hard for me to work, but I am training as a nurse. Thanks to organizations like Anera, I am able to receive help and medical attention. Otherwise, with the economic situation now, it would be too hard for me.”
Patients with sickle cell suffer from a number of adverse effects such as anemia and fatigue. More severe cases triggered by poor blood circulation can cause pain in the bones, stomach, and chest. Some patients also can suffer kidney failure and vision loss.
Israa and her two sisters have sickle cell anemia. The 25-year-old nurse lives in Ein El Hilweh Palestinian Refugee Camp in southern Lebanon. Getting the proper care strains her family’s budget.
“I’m always in pain,” Israa says. “I tire easily. I had a stroke a couple of years ago and was nearly paralyzed. I had surgery but lost complete vision in one eye.”
Israa’s sister Alaa, who also lives with sickle cell, had to drop out of school. The 29-year-old says she lost interest in her studies because of her condition. She’s been feeling better since she started medical treatment.
"I’ve been taking hydroxyurea for a few years now," Alaa says, "and it has helped me feel more normal in my everyday life. I feel less pain and generally feel my health is better.”
Hydroxyurea "helped me feel more normal in my everyday life."
The problem for Israa and Alaa and others suffering from sickle cell is the cost of the medicine, which they have to take often. Alaa says she is supposed to take three pills daily. Unfortunately, “because of the currency crisis, my family cannot afford more than two pills a day for me."
Treatment can also involve regular hospitalization, antibiotic treatments for lung infections, blood transfusions, and other medication to facilitate breathing. Treatments and medicines like hydroxyurea can help prolong life, reduce pain and ease symptoms. But not all families can afford the treatments. With Anera’s help and partnership with Hikma and Health Care Society, sickle cell treatment now is more accessible to those who need it.