In Conversation with Jake Okechukwu of SCAF Nigeria

The Easter comedy show Resurrection Laughter will be hitting the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja this Sunday, the 31st of March. A.R.T sat down for a chat with Jake Okechukwu from the Sickle Cell Aid Foundation (SCAF) of Nigeria, one of the organizations supporting the Resurrection Laughter Easter show.

A.R.T
Tell us about SCAF.

Jake Okechukwu
Sickle Cell Aid Foundation [SCAF] is a non-profit and non-governmental organization established to amplify awareness on Sickle Cell Anaemia and to raise funds solely for the provision of quality medical care for sickle cell persons, especially for the indigent in Nigeria.

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A.R.T
What is the biggest concern about sickle cell anaemia in Nigeria?

Jake Okechukwu
Nigeria has the highest number of sickle cell incidences in the world. According to a 2006 report by the World Health Organization, more than 150,000 children are born with sickle cell anaemia every year in Nigeria. The number has definitely increased because the population of growth since then. From the report, it means that over 410 children are born with sickle cell anaemia every day in Nigeria and the troubling side to those statistics is that more than half of the children born to sickle cell will die before their 5th birthday because of the absence of access to proper medical care, nutrition and special attention.

A.R.T
And how much awareness is out there about this?

Jake Okechukwu
Permit me to say that there is little or no awareness. We conducted a survey in August 2011 in the Federal Capital Territory with 600 respondents being interviewed. 47% did not know their genotype! Isn’t that alarming? They did not know what ‘genotype’ is about, neither did they have an idea about sickle cell. That calls for an emergency intervention. Even the people that know their genotype and know about sickle cell anaemia either do not have the proper information or sufficient knowledge.

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A.R.T
Is that opportunity to create awareness part of what interested SCAF about the Resurrection Laughter show?

Jake Okechukwu
Yes. We were intimated by Pius Bluetooth Momoh to collaborate with him on the show. He has volunteered with us and has a passion concerning sickle cell issues too. We see it as another opportunity to create awareness on sickle cell and to help provide an avenue where we can conduct free genotype tests for people who don’t know their genotype

A.R.T
What does SCAF hope to achieve by supporting the Resurrection Laughter show?

Jake Okechukwu
We just want to aid. We will be carrying out free genotype testing for a number of attendees who don’t know their genotype and would want to be armed with the requisite knowledge of their genotype.

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A.R.T
They say laughter is the best medicine, do you worry that a show like Resurrection Laughter can put hospitals and healthcare agencies out of business?

Jake Okechukwu
[Laughs] Why don’t we wait and see if Resurrection Laughter can bring that on! Impossible is nothing.

A.R.T
But on a more serious note how important would you say humour is to health?

Jake Okechukwu
Well, my people say that when an only kolanut is presented with love, it carries with it more value than a whole pod of several kolanuts. What am I trying to say here? Imagine if our physicians and medical personnel in our hospitals and clinics would do their work with smiles and laughter on their faces? Patients will feel more comfortable and undergo less panic. How many doctors crack jokes with their patients? If I was ill I know I would start feeling better if I see smiles and laughter and happiness around me. Humour helps.

A.R.T
Are you a comedy man or a dancing man?

Jake Okechukwu
I choreographed professionally for 4 years so I enjoy dance. But as for comedy, who doesn’t love comedy? I love both.

A.R.T
Going back to health issues, what does SCAF offer people with Sickle Cell Anemia?

Jake Okechukwu
At SCAF, our vision is reposed on two pillars: First, to provide intense and exigent awareness campaigns to prevent new sickle cell cases. And second, to provide quality specialist health care for sickle cell patients, especially the indigent. This we hope to achieve by establishing sickle cell specialist centers in the state capitals of our nation. These centres will provide pre-marital counseling and testing and will most of all offer quality treatment to sickle cell patients. With these we can prevent sickle cell births and more so reduce the copious deaths arising from the dearth of healthcare for sickle cell patients.

A.R.T
That’s very positively ambitious.

Jake Okechukwu
Yes and we are positive these and more can be achieved. Our vision is: a Nigeria free of sickle cell anemia and an excellent standard of healthcare service for those already living with the condition. Our mission statement is: to annihilate the inheritance of sickle cell disease by a wide-spread and persuasive awareness, and to provide the best healthcare for sickle cell patients in Nigeria, by working towards the creation of sickle cell aid specialist centers in all the states of the federation.

A.R.T
Have you got any advice for people living with sickle cell anemia? Any tips? Is there any home care, perhaps?

Jake Okechukwu
Well some good tips to help people who are living with sickle cell: drink a lot of water; take your medication; avoid extreme temperatures – when too hot or too cold; eat a balanced diet; avoid stressful conditions; rest when you feel the need to; understand your body and know when to stop; for the girls, avoid heels if you can; and when your pain is building up, go to the hospital.

A.R.T
Will you, Jake, be at the Resurrection Laughter show?

Jake Okechukwu
Sure, with my friends and colleagues too! I will be carrying out free genotype tests so I will be collecting blood samples but I hope to catch on some laughter.

A.R.T
How can you be contacted?

Jake Okechukwu
Our website is http://www.scaf.com.ng and you can contact me on my number +2348029012291.

Resurrection Laughter will be live in Abuja on the 31st of March, 2013. Come over to the Lawn Tennis court at Area 3 Pro-Cathedral and share some of the healthiest laughs you’ll have all year!! Tell a friend!

Check out our interview with the organizer of the Resurrection Laughter show Mc Bluetooth. Find out more about the show here.

Want to book your seat ahead of time? Tickets for the show are available online.

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