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India to Launch National Mission to Eradicate Thalassemia in 25 Years

© AP Photo / K.M. ChaudaryThalassemia patient with the genetic blood disorder receive blood transfusions at Sundas Foundation Center in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, May 7, 2022.
Thalassemia patient with the genetic blood disorder receive blood transfusions at Sundas Foundation Center in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, May 7, 2022. - Sputnik India, 1920, 09.05.2023
Thalassemia is a genetically-transmitted blood disorder affecting the hemoglobin count. According to official estimates, there are over 42 million thalassemia carriers in India. The country is home to an eighth of the global thalassemia caseload.
Indian authorities have pledged to roll out a "national mission" to eradicate thalassemia from the country over the next 25 years, Minister for Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda told a conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.

"There is a pressing need to create awareness about thalassemia like we did with other blood-related disorders such as sickle cell anemia. The focus of our ministry is on spreading awareness about thalassemia in the tribal-inhabited regions, particularly those located in the central parts of the country," Munda said at an event organized by New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital to mark 'World Thalassemia Day'.

Giving an overview of the prevalence of thalassemia in India, Rajesh Bhushan, the secretary at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), said that 10,000-12,000 infants are born with thalassemia in India annually.
He said that the number could be higher as several states still lack healthcare infrastructure to screen pregnant women and their husbands.

"There are states where screening takes place while there are others where there is no screening. Tamil Nadu is one the states where there is widespread screening," Bhushan underlined.

The health secretary said that authorities were now involved in efforts to modify an existing government portal so it could “capture” the prevalence of thalassemia in the country.
“We need exact data to combat the disease,” he stated.

Three-Step Approach

Bhushan said that eradicating thalassemia will involve a three-step approach — spreading awareness, prevention, and screening and treatment.
The official said that the government was creating a policy framework to involve around 1.5 million healthcare workers in different parts of the country, including in villages and small towns.
These workers will spread awareness about the condition and prompt married couples to get screened.
He further stated that the authorities were involved in ramping up the screening facilities, which at present were available only at big hospitals or through special camps set up by healthcare institutions.
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Bhushan said that couples with thalassemia would be counseled, for which authorities were creating a framework. Under Indian law, a pregnancy can be terminated within 24 weeks.
Finally, he spelled out that treating the condition was the most important part of this process.
“In terms of treatment, there are two options—blood transfusion and bone marrow transplant. There is a need to strengthen the treatment infrastructure,” he said.
For his part, Om Birla, speaker of India's lower house of Parliament (Lok Sabha), underscored the "strong need" to start a "universal program" to eradicate thalassemia.
Birla said he would undertake efforts to advise MPs and state legislators to start special camps for screening of the blood condition.