Thalassemia is a life threatening hereditary blood disorder that is prevalent in the Maldives. If not treated, children born with Thalassemia usually die between one and eight years old. Thalassemia causes the bone marrow to become over active, it cannot produce normal red blood cells; the bones grow out of shape and become weak; the poor quality blood is unable to carry sufficient oxygen for the body's needs; the heart and other organs become overworked and in time fail due to lack of oxygen.
This disorder is not obvious at birth, but during the first few years of life the children develop anemia.
Just to stay alive a child with Thalassemia requires monthly blood transfusions, however regular transfusions lead to another serious problem. The damaging deposits of iron build up in vital organs like the liver and the heart. These deposits must be removed by lengthy treatments.
This has to be injected five times a week by means of a special pump which maintains a steady flow of the drug in the blood stream, with each session of treatment lasting up to ten hours.
Apart from the main hospital in Male, the Capital island of the Maldives, there are several places where people suffering from Thalassemia can take blood transfusions, for example like in regional hospitals and certain health centres, for iron chelation, that is to remove excess iron from the body, all types of drugs are provided by the Maldivian government free of charge. They take the injections and medication home use by themselves, before giving the injection and medication. Parents are taught how to use the medication.