By Princess-Ekwi Ajide, Abuja
World Health Organization, WHO, in the African Region, has promised to provide support to countries at various levels, including resource mobilization for the implementation of national blood transfusion plans, advocacy for integrating blood safety in the plans, and strengthening the legal and regulatory framework for blood safety.
In a statement to commemorate the World Blood Donor Day 2022, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, urged African governments and political leaders to prioritize the provision of adequate human and financial resources to secure the future of national blood transfusion services.
According to the Regional Director, a blood service that gives patients access to safe blood and blood products, in sufficient quantities, is, a key component of an effective health system noting that compared to other Regions globally, the African Region sees a disproportionate number of conditions requiring donor blood, impacting as many as seven million patients every year.
She cited some of such conditions to include haemorrhage associated with pregnancy and childbirth, severe anaemia due to malaria and malnutrition, bone marrow and inherited blood disorders, trauma and accidents, as well as man-made and natural disasters hence countries across the African Region have worked hard to improve blood donation frequency, and the situation is showing signs of stabilizing as blood transfusion services in many countries reached out to blood donors through public awareness campaigns, transporting donors from and to their homes, using digital platforms and establishing call centres
Dr. Moeti, stressed that though the need for donor blood is universal, its access is not especially in the African Region, where demand often outstrips supply, thereby, negatively impacting timely access for all patients who need safe and quality-assured blood to save their lives.
She noted that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, voluntary unpaid blood donations dropped significantly saying that Malawi, for instance, registered 46 percent decrease in blood donations.
She however expressed hope that seeking out opportunities for partnerships and collaborations with media, the private sector, faith-based and non-governmental organizations, will help increase the recruitment and retention of voluntary unpaid blood donors.
The situation remains challenging, and it is exacerbated by issues such as staff shortages and limited funding from governments and partners organizations for effective blood donor education, recruitment, and retention.
She thanked Africa’s blood donors for their selfless contribution to national health systems, and acknowledged the tireless efforts of blood services staff who according to her, are deeply committed to maintaining critical blood supplies, of the research and development professionals pursuing new technologies and uses for donated blood, as well as the medical teams who use blood rationally to save lives.
14 June every year, the global community marks World Blood Donor Day to focus on the gift of life from voluntary unpaid blood donors around the world and WHO in the African Region, is calling for more people to become regular blood donors.
The theme for year’s celebration, “donating blood is an act of solidarity: join the effort and save lives” highlights the critical role of voluntary blood donations in saving lives, enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion.
Donating just one unit of blood can save the lives of up to three patients and by becoming a blood donor, one will help ease the pressure on health systems still struggling under the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.