Monday, June 14, 2021 was this year’s edition of the World Blood Donor Day, WBDD. But in Nigeria, an event of such significance was hardly marked, especially in official quarters, perhaps because of the more existential threats facing the people such as security, worsening poverty and food inflation arising from the disruption of farming by armed herdsmen.
To underscore the fact that the matter of blood donation is equally of existential importance, the West African Regional Director of the World Health Organisation, WHO, Matshidiso Moeti, said that seven million people in Africa need blood transfusion to survive every year.
Nigeria needs 1.8 million pints of blood to take care of those in need, but unfortunately, our country is only able to harness 500,000 litres of blood annually, which is just 26.7 per cent of need. In Nigeria, most blood donors donate for the use of their loved ones. Many of the “donors” are actually sellers. They are people who desperately need the money because of poverty or substance addiction, and the blood from this source is mostly unsafe.
Blood donation is a need that all good citizens must respond to in our traditional spirit of being our brother’s keeper or loving our neighbour as ourselves. Most of the people with urgent need for blood transfusion are accident victims and our women giving birth. So much blood is lost that without readily-available, clinically-certified blood, lives are needlessly lost.
We wonder what has really happened to the National Blood Policy of 2006. Under it, the National Blood Transfusion Service, NBTS, is given the mandate to develop means of boosting voluntary blood donation from among the good citizenry. They are to implement the universally-approved scientific methods of handling blood to ensure its safe administration on those who need it.
Unfortunately, funding of the NBTS depends heavily on external donors, which has been largely withdrawn. The NBTS is left high and dry. This is what happens when a nation’s policy is left at the mercy of foreign charities. The federal and state governments as well as public-spirited individuals must rise and give the NBTS the needed financial support to help Nigerians in need.
It has been scientifically established that regular blood donation has many beneficial effects for both the donor and beneficiary. The WHO has already isolated no fewer than five health benefits.
These include healthy weight loss, prevention of haemochromatosis or the excessive absorption of blood by the body, lower cancer and heart disease risks and the enhancement of the production of new blood cells.
With these surprising benefits to the donor, we need to sensitise people that beyond charity, it pays the donor to donate blood voluntarily and not sell it.