About 10,000 to 12,000 children are born with thalassemia every year in India. In order to provide a one-time cure opportunity for Haemoglobinopathies, Coal India through its CSR initiative had launched Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojna under Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) in 2017. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has now launched the second phase of the program, to be extended for the next two years from 2020.
Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojna
Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojna is launched for the benefit of the underprivileged Thalassaemic patients below the age of 12 years. The beneficiaries need to have an annual family income below Rs 500,000 to be eligible for this assistance. The CSR initiative was targeted to provide financial assistance to a total of 200 patients by providing a package cost not exceeding rupees 10 lakhs per HSCT.
The scheme originally provided a one-time cure opportunity for Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Disease for patients who have a matched family donor. However, it has now been extended to cover Aplastic Anaemia patients (lack of blood cell production in the body).
What is Thalassaemia?
Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder characterized by less oxygen-carrying protein (haemoglobin) and fewer red blood cells in the body than normal. When a person has low haemoglobin levels, the body’s red blood cells don’t function properly and they last shorter periods of time, so there are fewer healthy red blood cells travelling in the bloodstream.
Thalassaemic patients are often unable to work productively as they suffer from fatigue, weakness, and slow growth. Thalassemia can also cause these people to become anaemic, further reducing their physical as well as cognitive productivity.
As such, the mild forms of Thalassemia may not need treatment. However, severe forms may require blood transfusions or a donor stem-cell transplant for its treatment.
It is estimated that there are about 65,000-67,000 β-thalassemia patients in India. Lauding the initiative by the PSU, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said, “Data on the prevalence of silent carriers for various haemoglobinopathies show that it is 2.9-4.6 per cent for β-Thalassemia, while it can be as high as 40 per cent for sickle cell anaemia especially among the tribal population. Haemoglobin variants like HBE in eastern India can be as common as 3-50 per cent which calls for more attention to these diseases.”
Quality healthcare is not easily available to all sections of society in India. Underprivileged people are often most careful in terms of health, for they cannot afford treatment. With diseases like thalassemia, they do not have a choice but to opt for treatment at the cost of the hard work of their and their families’ lives. Such disorders make sure that the poor remain perpetually poor. With this initiative, Coal India is not only improving the health of underprivileged thalassaemic patients but is also providing a chance at a better life to the patients’ families.