Every 14th of June, the world marks the World Blood Donor Day aimed at raising global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion and of the critical contribution voluntary blood donors make to national health systems.
Today, 57 countries have achieved 100 per cent voluntary blood donations, up from 39 in 2002. In Nigeria, only 5 per cent of the population is donating blood voluntarily.
Mr. Anthony Ajayi, Chief Blood Recruitment Officer and Haematolgist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), spoke to Chioma Obinna & Gabriel OlawaleÂ on the fortunes of blood donation in the country. Excerpts:
Voluntary blood donation in this part of the world is still poor. Our experience at LUTH has shown that only very few Nigerians can walk into the clinic where we operate to donate blood without any remuneration.Â At the LUTH donor recruitment centre,Â the first thing we usually ask a prospective donor is whether he/she is donating to save humanity or donating to get money in return? People who collect money before donationÂ are known as blood touts or commercial donors.
For the purpose of safe blood that is free fromÂ Â Transmission Transimodule Infection (TTI). At the centre, we are involved more with voluntary blood donors who give blood without asking for financial remuneration or any material incentive.
All over the world, voluntary blood donors donâ€™t conceal any information about theirÂ lifestyles and they must have been convinced that their blood is pure and safe before they come for donation.
Blood donation criteria
First; we check your lifestyle. A donor should not have a high risk behaviour. Commercial sex workers, people who put tattoos on their bodies, people who inject drugs into their blood system, people who live in garages, people who take alcohol or other concoction that can cause havoc in their system cannot donate blood.
A donor must be aged 18- 65 years and have a stable blood pressure and a stable pulse rate. Your weight must not be less than 50 kilogrammes. These are the basic criterias used in determining whether a prospective donor is fit or not.
For volunteers who want to donate blood to save humanity, we always make them pass through some donor fitness tests. We ensure that even when you donate blood, you must have a little excess to continue your routine. But if you do not have that excess which you can take, you have failed our fitness test, hence we disqualify you, then after doing that, we will advise you to work on your diet and do something that can increase your haemoglobin concentration.
Tests run on prospective donors include HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and malaria tests. The donor is informed about the positivity of any such disease.
Who can donate blood
It is pathetic that there are so many myths about blood donation in Nigeria. There are so many cultural and traditional beliefs which have made it impossible for Nigeria to achieve 100 per cent voluntary blood donation.Â For females, we advise that if they are menstruating, pregnant, nursingÂ lactating mothers, or above 65 years of age, they are all exempted from blood donation.Â A man can donate blood at three months intervals, while a female can donate at four monthsÂ intervals.
Donors seen at LUTH
The number is very poor. That is why we go out to canvass for blood and save them the stress of coming to the hospital. In a month, we may see just one orÂ two voluntary blood donors who would just walk into the clinic. But, if you now go out to meet them, you have now done them that favour that you are not inconveniencing them.
Blood donation in Nigeria
The whole world isgrouped into categories A, B and C nations. As I am talking to you, Nigeria is not in any category. Countries such as Togo and Contonu are in category A. But Nigeria is not any category because people have not been well informed about voluntary safe blood donation. In this hospital, it was just about two to three years ago, that we moved up to 5 per cent voluntary blood donation. As at now, there is ignorance about donating blood.
People have already put traditional beliefs in it. Some say, their blood may be used for rituals or sacrifices. No matter how you try to convince these set of people, it has already been registered in their minds that they can never donate blood and that the blood they have is only enough for them, and that if they try it, they will die.
Federal government is tryingÂ to an extent. About three or four years ago,Â governmentÂ introduced theÂ National Blood Transfusion ServiceÂ CentresÂ situated in the six geo-political zones of the country.
They are in the South West, Ibadan, Owerri, Abuja, Kaduna and Benin. So they have done it like that in such away that, if anywhere in the country, you want to takeÂ safe blood for transfusion, the hospital goes to any of these collection centres and takes blood that has been subsidised at the rate of N2000.00. They are not selling that blood. That N2000 is just for the service charge used in screening that blood.
Today, we have more than 20 centres in the whole Federation. In the South West it is in Ibadan and Abeokuta and they have been going from one place to another to canvass for voluntary blood donation. These centres giveÂ blood at about N2000.00 per pint. So any hospital that is not self sufficient can go there and take blood and use it to augment blood collected in the hospitals so that patients who are the recipients can take.
Health benefit of blood donation
The effect of donating blood is mostly on the borne marrow. Even, the Holy Book says