TANZANIA— Tanzania has made a significant stride in healthcare with the opening of its first bone marrow transplant center at the Benjamin Mkapa Hospital (BMH) in Dodoma.

The launch of this center is part of the government’s investment plan to enhance specialized healthcare and improve its citizens’ access to high-quality medical services.

The Tanzanian government allocated a budget of US$1.145 million to establish the center at BMH, and it plans to continue investing in more specialized care centers across the country.

This center becomes the second in Tanzania with the capacity to provide bone marrow transplant services, following the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

The primary objective of the center is to reduce the financial burden for patients seeking treatment abroad.

The cost, which previously stood at approximately US$50,890, will now range from US$21,204 to US$23,324.

Tanzania now joins Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia as countries with bone marrow transplant centers.

The launch ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister of Tanzania, H.E. Kassim Majaliwa, who expressed his satisfaction with the country’s progress in improving healthcare services.

He acknowledged the milestone achieved and the limited availability of such services in Africa. H.E Majaliwa emphasized the importance of strengthening specialized and super-specialized services in Tanzania to reduce the government’s expenditure on sending patients abroad.

The Minister for Health, Ummy Mwalimu, highlighted the urgent need to upgrade BMH to become the second National Hospital after the Muhimbili National Hospital.

She noted that globally, around 300,000 children are born annually with sickle cell complications, and in Tanzania, only 6,000 out of 11,000 patients receive medical services at the clinic level.

Minister Mwalimu emphasized the pain, low blood counts, and missed education experienced by children with sickle cell disease.

Dr. Alphonce Chandika, the Managing Director of BMH, revealed that Tanzania ranks fourth globally in terms of the burden of sickle cell disease and third in Africa.

He reported that three children have already been successfully treated at the newly established Bone Marrow Transplant Center.

Sickle cell disease is a prevalent genetically acquired disorder in Africa, with approximately 1,000 children born with the condition each day.

The disease has a high mortality rate, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 90% of affected children die before their fifth birthday.

However, recent initiatives and collaborations are bringing hope to the region. Networks and partnerships are being formed to address barriers to access and affordability of interventions, such as the Africa Sickle Cell Disease program launched by Novartis and the Ministry of Health of Ghana.

In August 2022, health ministers in Lome, Togo during the 72nd World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa launched a campaign to ramp up awareness and bolster prevention and care to curb the toll of sickle cell disease.

The committee noted that many public health facilities across the region lack the services for prevention, early detection, and care for sickle cell disease.

The establishment of Tanzania’s bone marrow transplant center is a significant step towards providing specialized care for sickle cell patients within the country, reducing financial burdens, and improving health outcomes.

It also contributes to the global effort to combat sickle cell disease and improve prevention and care strategies in sub-Saharan Africa.

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