Thalassemia is a genetic blood disease that is rampant in Sri Lanka and other developing countries. Roughly, one child is born with thalassemia every 4 days, about 100 children per year. Left untreated, Thalassemia results in early childhood death. The Sri Lanka government provides a universal health care system that includes safe blood screening facilities and medical centers, however the government funding is not sufficient enough to provide the most basic form of treatment for all those diagnosed with thalassemia. Clinics based outside of the capital of Colombo have less funding and a scarce amount of medical equipment meaning that families in those areas must travel long distances to receive any treatment. The current standard treatment involves regular blood transfusions, needle pokes, and numerous medications for children. Receiving regular transfusions, leads to an iron overload and the need for iron-chelating therapy. The current available treatment in Sri Lanka is not curative nor easily accessible for all patients. It is extremely costly and many times cost-prohibitive for families. The medical pumps, drugs, and ability to travel to and from a medical facility on a regular basis is not always feasible for families. In developed countries, many children with thalassemia have access to receiving a bone marrow transplant, which is the only curative treatment. Cure2Children Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing this curative treatment to children with thalassemia in developing countries.
In October 2013, Cure2Children initiated a collaboration with the Asiri Hospital in Sri Lanka to begin the process of initiating the project by selecting thalassemic children and their family members for HLA typing, through consultation with our medical team and online database. Cure2Children will aid in the complete preparation and training of local doctors and nurses to administer successful bone marrow transplantation. Such an endeavor would be life-changing to many children suffering with the blood disorder in Sri Lanka. These children who otherwise had no hope of a cure, will now have access locally if a suitable/compatible donor is found. Receiving a bone marrow transplant would give a child the chance to live a long, healthy life without constant transfusions, medications and visits to medical centers. To date, Cure2Children has organized about one-hundred free HLA tests to children in Sri Lanka through a laboratory in Germany. Cure2Children team members will begin training local medical professionals at the beginning of June, and the first bone marrow transplantation in Sri Lanka is scheduled to begin mid June, 2014 and the second transplant will take place shortly after.