Nigeria short of 1m blood units annually

By Chioma Obinna

On this year’s World Blood Donor Day, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has called for the urgent passage of the National Blood Service Commission Bill and immediate assent by President Mohammadu Buhari as part of efforts to increase voluntary blood donation as well as save more lives across the country.

The National Blood Service Commission Bill which has passed third reading at the National Assembly by May 18, 2021, was sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives Abbas Tajudeen seeking to standardise the practice of blood donation in Nigeria.

The National Blood Service Commission Bill, if passed into law, is designed to grant the National Blood Transfusion Service, NBTS, the autonomy to carry out its mandate according to global best practices.

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The Bill would also regularise the appointment of core technical members of staff previously engaged in the programme as well as enhancing the performance of the NBTS by ensuring that relevant skill-sets are available to optimise service delivery at the blood service.

In a message to mark this year’s World Blood Donor Day with the theme: “Celebrating the Gift of Blood”, the President of the NMA, Prof. Innocent Ujah lamented what he described as a ‘yawning gap’ between the World Health Organisation, WHO recommendation of annual blood requirement for Nigeria-2,000,000 units as against the current figure of 1,000,000 units.

Noting that blood transfusion service was a critical factor in the health sector and plays a major role in the reduction of morbidity and mortality especially among women and children said the call by NMA become necessary following the mind-blowing statistics about blood transfusion services in Nigeria.

This includes low level of eligible adult blood donor population put at less than 4 percent compared to South Africa 11 percent, Canada 13 percent and USA 25 percent.

“Nigeria has low level Voluntary Blood Donation of 25,000 per annum which is less than 3 percent of total blood donation in Nigeria, high level Commercial Blood Donation of 1,030,000 per annum which is also less than 90 percent of total blood donation in Nigeria.  There is also a high rate of transmission of Transfusion Transmissible Infection among blood recipients from commercial donors in Nigeria (about 10 percent of HIV infection in Nigeria).”

Ujah lamented the poor funding of blood transfusion service centres  as well as inadequate regulatory laws for the activities of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) in Nigeria.

The NBTS centres are poorly funded and in dire need of upgrade in terms of manpower, infrastructure, equipment and training.

Speaking on challenges bedevilling voluntary blood donation in Nigeria, Ujah said it is plagued by a high rate of commercial blood donation with the attendant risk of Transmission Transmissible Infections (TTIs) while the poor funding of the centres across the country has led to a deficiency in the quality of her operations.

“Laws guiding the practice of blood transfusion medicine in Nigeria are inadequate with the attendant proliferation of quackery and other sharp practices in the sector and 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.”

The NMA called for sustained positive action by all stakeholders towards making voluntary blood donation a culture entrenched in all aspects of our lives.

They want to improve budgeting and release of funds to the NBTS centres across Nigeria, and for state governments to take ownership of the NBTS centres in their domain.

Further, he posited that the NMA stands in full support of the NBTS and joins all voices of a good reason to create sustained advocacy for a comprehensive improvement in blood transfusion services in Nigeria.

Speaking on the theme of the 2021 WBDD, he said it highlights the uniqueness of the selfless act of voluntarily donating blood and the need for everyone to take responsibility and act to support the drive to make blood safe, available, accessible and affordable.

The slogan for the 2021 WBDD is “Give Blood and Keep the World Beating”.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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