The importance of safe blood and its transfusion cannot be over-emphasised as it remains a key aspects in providing quality care to save mothers haemorrhaging during childbirth and people with serious injuries. PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, writes on having a safe bank in the country.
Blood is life and that is why the World Health Organisation (WHO), on 14th of June, each year, celebrates World Blood Donor Day to spread awareness about its significance and to appreciate the contribution of voluntary blood donors around the world.
This year’s theme is “Give blood and keep the world beating” and it is dedicated to people who have been donating blood, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to WHO, blood is needed for surgical procedures, as well as to treat severe anaemia, inherited blood disorders, and other conditions.
Since blood can only be kept for a limited time, a steady supply of donations is important to make sure adequate blood and blood products are always available.
However, despite its importance, there are still around seven million patients who require this life-saving product in African countries every year.
The global health body says blood stocks further decreased in the African Region as movement restrictions and fears of infection hindered people from accessing donation sites.
WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said the average blood donation rate dropped by 17 per cent and the frequency of blood drives reduced by 25 per cent, while demand for blood also decreased by 13 per cent with the suspension of routine surgeries in some countries and fewer people seeking care in health facilities.
The Nigerian Situation
In Nigeria, less than five per cent of all blood donations come from voluntary unpaid donors.
Stakeholders have therefore called for a strong base of voluntary unpaid donors in order to ensure that everyone who needs safe blood has access to it.
According to the chairman, House Committee on Health, Hon. Yusuf Tanko Sununu, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) centres in the country are poorly funded and in dire need of upgrade in terms of manpower, infrastructure, equipment and training.
He said there is a yawning gap between the WHO recommended annual blood requirement for Nigeria (2,000,000 units) and the current figure of 1,000,000.
Blood transfusion service in the country is plagued by a high rate of commercial blood donation with the attendant risk of Transmission Transmissible Infections (TTI). Other challenges according to Sununu are poor funding of the NBTS leading to deficiency in the quality of her operations and laws guiding the practice of blood transfusion in the country are inadequate with the attendant proliferation of quackery and other sharp practices in the sector.
“State NBTS centres are the worst hit since the withdrawal of donor funds by implementing partners as State Governments are yet to take full ownership of such centres in their domain,” he added.
Putting it in perspective, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said the blood bank in Nigeria is marred with low level of eligible adult blood donor population, which is less than four per cent compared to Canada 13 per cent and USA 25 per cent; low level Voluntary Blood Donation, (25,000 per annum which is less than three per cent of total blood donation in Nigeria and high level commercial blood donation (1,030,000 per annum) which is greater than 90 per cent of total blood donation in Nigeria.
Sadly, the association said 10 per cent of HIV infection in Nigeria was as a result of blood transfusion, adding that the country is faced with inadequate regulatory laws for the activities of NBTS in the nation and poor funding of Blood Transfusion Service Centres in Nigeria.
The Way Forward
Given the rise in emergencies globally, the demand for safe blood and blood products has been on the increase and therefore, access to safe, quality, and affordable blood and blood products is crucial, says the health minister.
To that effect, the minister of health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said it is important that the country has adequate supply of blood and blood products to meet this increase in demand. “This will help substantially reduce the mortality associated with life-threatening diseases, trauma cases from victims of road accidents, casualties of bomb blasts, anaemia in children, bleeding in pregnancy and childbirth women, victims of insurgency, conflict, and tragic building collapse,” he said.
In order to have adequate supply of safe blood, Ehanire disclosed that the NBTS, in collaboration with other stakeholders has rolled out a one million safe blood units Initiative in Nigeria. He also disclosed that The NBTS is now also actively involved in high-quality research to ensure the use of evidence-based practice in the country’s blood system.
“NBTS is charged with the mandate of, regulating, coordinating, and ensuring safe, quality, and affordable blood and blood products to all who may need it. In order to achieve its mandate, NBTS has rolled out a ten-year strategic plan which includes the one million safe blood units initiative to ensure an increase in the number of voluntary unpaid donations in order to meet the rising needs for sate blood and blood products across the country,” he added.
While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many health interventions, Ehanire however applauded blood donors who have continued to donate blood, personally committed to saving the lives of those in need, adding that this act is indeed heroic and worthy of commendation.
He also called for ustained positive action by all stakeholders towards making Voluntary Blood Donation a culture entrenched in all aspects of our lives, improved budgeting and release of funds to the NBTS centres across Nigeria.
The role of young people in ensuring a safe blood supply, is crucial, says WHO, adding that in many countries, young people have been at the forefront of activities and initiatives aimed at achieving safe blood supplies through voluntary and non-remunerated blood donations.
Since the youth form a large sector of the population in many societies and are generally full of idealism, enthusiasm and creativity, the organisation however called on government to encourage youth to embrace the humanitarian call to donate blood and inspire others to do same.
Countries are advised to thank blood donors in the world and create wider public awareness of the need for regular, unpaid blood donation; promote the community values of blood donation in enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion and celebrate the potential of youth as partners in promoting health.
Moeti also urged governments, in collaboration with blood donor associations and nongovernmental organizations, to put in place the systems and infrastructure needed to increase the collection of blood from voluntary donors.