Sickle cell disease is a serious chronic genetic affliction that is believed to affect more than 300,000 infants in sub-Saharan Africa each year. These figures motivated Fondation Pierre Fabre to join the fight against this little publicised disease in 2006.

Approximately 50 million people worldwide are carriers of sickle cell trait and therefore likely to transmit this genetic haemoglobin disorder to their offspring. This disease, emblematic of the populations of Africa and its diaspora, limits the life expectancy of those afflicted if they do not receive proper treatment: it is thought that half the children die before the age of five.

On the African continent, where some countries already have up to a 2% affliction rate among newborns, sickle cell disease may well gain momentum. A population boom is expected there, seeing a billion more people by 2050. Beginning immediate investment in therapeutic research would therefore seem an urgent priority. In addition to treatments to relieve pain and combat complications, a basic course of treatment must be developed to curtail transmission of the disease.

We are still far from reaching this objective. In the meantime, the Foundation is focusing its efforts on neonatal screening for the disease, an uncommon practice in Africa, and facilitating access to proper care. Starting with the Research Centre to combat sickle cell disease (CRLD) founded in Bamako, it intends to broadly disseminate the necessary skills for this battle elsewhere on the continent and in the Caribbean region, and forge effective South-South collaborations.