While the proper implementation of the thalassaemia law still far away, the provincial government has requested the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) not to issue nikahnama (marriage certificate) to those whose thalassaemia status report is not submitted to the authority.
“The Sindh health ministry has requested Nadra not to issue nikhanama to a couple unless the thalassaemia test report of at least the bridegroom is enclosed with it,” the health ministry spokesperson said while quoting the health minister as saying.
The statement issued by the ministry said that the government was taking measures to ensure that at least bridegroom’s thalassaemia test was made mandatory before issuance of nikahnama. And, it added, the bride could be tested if the bridegroom tested positive.
Experts, however, expressed surprise at the government’s communication with Nadra saying that the provincial authorities had not made prior arrangements for an inexpensive test, which could identify whether a person was thalassaemia minor.
A child may have thalassaemia major, which is lethal and life threatening disease, if both of his/her parents are thalassaemia minor, health experts said.
“Despite tall claims and ambitious laws, the government has made no concrete measures, including making an inexpensive thalassaemia test conveniently available at all taluka hospitals,” said an expert.
Officials said a letter had been sent to district health officers of all the 29 districts of Sindh, including six districts in Karachi, asking them to arrange for a test for checking thalassaemia in a person.
Called single-tube osmotic fragility test (soft), the officials described the test as a cheaper examination, which the department could arrange in hospitals and dispensaries at the taluka level.
“It is a cheaper test that we could conduct at a facility no matter how small it is in equipment and size,” said the official.
“Once it is established that who is thalassaemia major and who is not, it will get easy to prevent marriages in thalassaemia minor couples and help fewer babies with such a lethal disorder,” said the official.