First Lady of Niger Seeks Answers on Sickle Cell Disease from Howard Experts

WASHINGTON -- Dr. Malika Issoufou Mahamadou, the first lady of the Republic of Niger and president of the Tattali-Iyali Foundation, met with doctors and other clinicians with the Howard University Center for Sickle Cell Monday as part of her continuous effort to upgrade health care for the citizens of her African nation.

Dr. Mahamadou, who was greeted by Dr. Mark S. Johnson, dean of the College of Medicine, and Dr. Sheik N. Hassan, senior associate dean for Academic Affairs in the college, listened intently during the numerous presentations, interrupting speakers periodically to ask questions through her French-speaking translator.

Sergei Nekhai, Ph.D., a co-director at the center and director of the center’s research program, gave an explanation about sickle cell treatment overall and at Howard University and discussed advancements in sickle cell research.

Dr. Patricia O’Neal, a hematologist/oncologist in the Department of Medicine at Howard University Hospital and the College of Medicine and co-director of the center, told her Excellency about treatments for sickle cell disease in adults.

Dr. Seyed Mehdi Nouraie, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine in the College of Medicine and Howard University Hospital, explained the center’s epidemiology and data analysis, and Barbara Harrison, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine and director of the center’s Community Outreach Program, discussed efforts to educate residents in the Washington area and beyond.

As head of Tattali-Iyali Foundation, the first lady has been working to advance the organization’s vision for a better world for women, children and the underserved.  Sickle cell disease affects about 10 percent of Niger’s population.

In Niger, 59.5 percent of the people live below the poverty line. Life expectancy is 54 years for males and 56 for women. Statistics show that in Niger a woman dies every two hours while pregnant or after delivery and at the same time, six newborns die and 30 women become disabled as a result of obstetrical complications.

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