Thalassemia, a hereditary blood disorder, is a common health issue in Bangladesh as seven per cent of the population are carrier of this disease. And every year 7,000 newborns with thalassemia are being added to the population, says the Bangladesh Thalassemia Foundation. Considering its degree of prevalence among the populace, the health issue is definitely a subject of concern. And that is more so for the simple reason that in case a person has this blood disorder, her/his body does not make enough of the protein called haemoglobin, an important ingredient of body's red blood cells. With the blood having fewer haemoglobins that carry the vital food of the body cells, oxygen, a person may feel fatigued and short of breath. This is the condition known as anaemia.
People with thalassemia may have mild or severe anaemia. In the severe cases of anaemia, the body's internal organs may get damaged ultimately leading to death. So, it is vital for a person to know which type of thalassemia she/he is afflicted with. It is to be noted at this point that thalassemia is caused by a mutation in the DNA of cells that make haemoglobin. In that case, blood is deprived of its capacity to produce normal amount of haemoglobin. Since the condition of thalassemia is hereditary, it is important for a married couple to know if any of them has thalassemia. For if both the husband and the wife are carriers of thalassemia, then their children will definitely carry the disease. So, to ensure that the next generation may not inherit this harmful physical condition, pre-marriage medical tests need to be made mandatory for marriageable men and women.
And it is exactly such concern that prompted the High Court (HC) to issue a rule on Sunday asking the government why it should not be directed to formulate a provision for including thalassemia test report in the National Identity Cards (NIDs) of people. The HC rule further required of the government to see that patients of this disease do not marry each other and that their children are not affected by this disease.
Notably, a bench of the HC issued the rule following a petition filed by a Supreme Court lawyer seeking a directive to this effect from the court.
It goes without saying that it is a welcome order from the country's highest seat of justice to the government. It is believed that the respondents of this HC rule would act promptly as directed to see that the children of this country may not be victims of this debilitating health condition in the future.
Now that except a section of the educated urban population, most members of the general public are not aware of the prevalence of such blood disorder among them, the question of raising their awareness level about this disease comes to the fore.
The government's publicity organs as well s the media would be well-advised to launch a public awareness campaign to this end. Needless to say, the campaign materials should include basic information about thalassemia, why it is important for the people to do blood tests for thalassemia and insert the information of the test result in their NIDs.
Hopefully, as required by the HC rule, the government would look into the issue and make sure that the coming generation is free from a life-threatening health issue like thalassemia.