First published here, in Feb. 2010.
Lahore- The Seeds of Education, Policy & Legal Awareness Association held an informal talk on their recently launched Awareness Drive ‘Save a life, save a generation’.
Speaking on the occasion, the President of SEPLAA Mrs. Ammara Farooq Malik explained that the issue of compulsory blood screening before marriage is one of the basic preventive care that parents to be can take. The issue was elaborated by showing the guests a video clip of an eleven year old thalessemic girl, Kiran Ashfaq, who died after the failure of her bone marrow transplant. The guests were deeply moved by the memorial video of the girl and expressed their strong commitment to support the cause of SEPLAA.
During the question answer session, several key suggestions were given by SEPLAA members Jaffer Mateen and Khurram Zafar. It was suggested that camps could be set up in institutions where the samples of students could be taken as a routine matter and the students could be informed whether they were thalassemia minor carriers.Mrs. Ammara Farooq Malik explained at the launch ceremony that if two thalassemia minors carriers got married then their children could be born with thalassemia major. ‘There are over 150,000 thalassemia major cases in Pakistan and the number is growing.’
‘We propose that that every person should be tested at least once for thalassemia traits and this information can be put on their identity cards along with their blood type’, she added.
Some of the guests present expressed their reservation over the expectation of such a blood screening requirement, terming it very difficult to talk about a topic which is considered ‘shameful’ in our society. To this concern, Mrs. Farooq replied that ‘we want to create so much awareness about the importance of premarital blood screening that in a matter of a few years, this concept will become a routine matter and not a cause for ‘shame’ or a ‘social taboo’ as was the case in all the civilized countries. Italy and Greece had some of the highest number of cases of thalassemia and those countries have learnt to take care of the problem at the roots by educating their people that thalassemia can be prevented by taking the responsible action of blood testing before getting married.’
‘It is easier to donate blood but much harder to change the way people think about blood screening before getting married. But we are very hopeful and very enthusiastic to take up this challenge for the sake of our future generations’, she added.
Also present on the occasion were Mr. Hassan Awais Wyne, the Treasurer of SEPLAA, Ms. Zahra Wyne the General Secretary, Mrs. Saman Jaffer founding member and Head of Event Management at SEPLAA apart from several distinguished guests.
In the end, Mrs. Ammara Farooq Malik thanked Mohsin Javed, a student volunteer who had designed the website of SEPLAA. She also thanked the other volunteers, guests and members who helped make the event a great success.
Later information leaflets about SEPLAA’s drive ‘Save a life, save a generation’ were distributed amongst the guests and the guests were then invited to have tea.