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Know your Rhesus factor, genotype, NGO urges Nigerians

A non-governmental organisation, Rhesus Solution Initiative (RSI) has urged Nigerians to know their Rhesus factor status, genotype and blood group in order to put an end to the incidences of maternal and infant mortality in the country.

Rhesus (Rh) factor is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells. If your blood has the protein, you’re Rh positive. If your blood lacks the protein, you’re Rh negative. Rh positive is the most common blood type.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria is the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world.

As part of the awareness strategies,  RSI organised a road walk from Isheri roundabout to Igando/Ikotun Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Lagos at the weekend to sensitize the public on the importance of knowing their blood group, Rhesus status and genotype.

Speaking to newsmen after the walk, Founder/President of the NGO, Mrs Olufunmilayo Banire said, with more awareness on rhesus factor and its incompatibility, the incidence of infant mortality will be reduced.

Explaining, Mrs Banire said, “Rhesus incompatibility occurs when a Rhesus positive man and a Rhesus negative woman come together and they are prone to having still birth or infant deaths, babies with jaundice, miscarriages.”

She said, the NGO has also taken the awareness campaigns to secondary schools, tertiary institutions, Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), Religious Birth Attendants (RBAs), Local Government Areas (LGAs) “and we’ve over time given Rhogam injections to over 1000 women that are challenged financially and we still intend to do more to ensure that in the next few years, Rhesus incompatibility is reduced or totally eradicated.”

When an Rhesus incompatibility is identified, Rhogam will be given as a shot, during week 28 of pregnancy (it will also be given after chorionic villus sampling, amniocentesis, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, abortion, uterine bleeding, or any trauma during pregnancy that could leak some of the fetal cells over to you) and then again within 72 hours after delivery (if, that is, the baby is indeed Rh-positive; if he or she’s Rh-negative, the shot isn’t necessary because there are no ‘foreign’ cells for your immune system to respond to), ensuring that subsequent pregnancies are as safe as the first.

According to Mrs Banire, Rhesus incompatibilty is prevalent among the Yoruba race.

“We have statistics done by researchers and we also have our own statistics as well. Out of the 5000 people that we’ve been able to test, we have identified over 6 per cent prevalence in Lagos state,” she said.

Also speaking, Professor Adekunbi Olabanjo, a pathologist and Vice President of RSI said it is important for both man and woman to know their Rhesus status.

“If a woman who is Rhesus negative marries a man who is rhesus positive, they can give birth to Rhesus imcompatible child and can result into stillbirth or miscarriage. Some men can be Rhesus negative and we know that that kind of blood group is not readily available, so if there is a need for blood, if we as volunteers or those who are negative don’t donate, then there could be a shortage when it’s needed.

“We also encourage voluntary blood donation so that there will be blood available when it is needed and blood donated voluntarily is the safest blood, it is screened for infections. Usually, those that donate blood commercially are high risk people, there could be infections in their blood,”  Olabanjo said.

Wife of Lagos State Governor, Mrs Bolanle Ambode, represented by wife of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Community Development, Mrs Fatimah Bamigbetan commended the NGO for creating awareness in the country on Rhesus factor.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Legal Adviser, Dr Muiz Banire called for concerted efforts to eliminate Rhesus factor incidence.

“The government cannot do it alone and that’s why there is need for partnership and everyone needs to get involved. Rhesus factor is a worldwide phenomenon. Let’s all spread the message to our families, communities and neighbours.”

Mrs Banire urged mothers especially pregnant women to visit recognised health facilities and ensure that their children are tested for rhesus factors, genotype and blood group.

“People should also know that AS and AS shouldn’t form any union, avoid abortion or get Rhogam injection after every abortion, miscarriage and delivery because we have to eradicate the prevalence of sickle cell anaemia, rhesus incompatibility, infant mortality and maternal morbidity.”

She however solicited fund from well-meaning Nigerians, “our office is open to everyone for support and partnership. A Rhogam injection costs N28,000 and we still need to reach more people in the country.”

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