June 14, 2022

Nigeria far from achieving 100% voluntary blood donation — NBTS

Our land soaked in blood, gloom, South-East Bishops wail

Collects only 500,000 pints yearly, records 73.3% shortfall

By Chioma Obinna

There is little to cheer as  Nigeria joins the rest of the world today to mark this year’s World Blood Donor Day as designed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Despite the importance of blood to human life and medical treatments, Nigerians continue to suffer greatly from poor culture of voluntary blood donation. 

The recent terrorist attack in Owo, Ondo State was a classic example of the impact of  the lack of essential blood tranfusion services.

Several of the injured that required urgent blood transfusion could not be attended to because there was no blood at the blood banks and hospitals  which resulted to appeals to the general public to volunteer to give blood.

But how safe is the blood donated in a coarse atmosphere? 

According to experts, voluntary blood donation is the best form of generating blood for use in humans than commercially generated blood.

However, in Nigeria, donors must be between the ages 18 and 65 year since blood donations come with regulations such as blood donor safety criteria and donor selection criteria.

Experts also championed that health status, weight, and the blood volume of willing donors are also considered before donation is allowed.

For weight, it is recommended that the donor must be weighing 50kg to be fit to donate blood.

In the views of the Africa Regional Director, World Health Organisation, WHO, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, safe blood and its transfusion are key aspects in providing quality care to save mothers haemorrhaging during childbirth and people with serious injuries.

Moeti said blood is needed for surgical procedures, as well as to treat severe anaemia, inherited blood disorders, and other conditions. Blood can only be stored for a limited time and so a steady supply of donations is important to make sure adequate blood products are always available.

Apparently, due to poor policy formulation and implementation, lack of enabling legislative framework and funding difficulties, collection, distribution and use of safe blood for a healthier population has remained a major task for government agencies and officials involved in Nigeria.

Statistics from the WHO have shown that Nigeria needs an average of 1.8 million pints of blood annually to keep the health of her people safe and sound.

Unfortunately, the Nigeria’s National Blood Transfusion Service, NBTS, said the agency collects only 500,000 pints of blood every year with a shortfall of about 73.3 percent.

The agency also disclosed that only about 25,000 blood units sourced exclusively from voluntary unpaid blood donors were screened, collected and distributed in 2019 and 2020.

Today, it is no longer news that due to inadequate blood supply to meet clinical demands, most hospitals and patients in the country depend on commercial donors for their blood needs.

According to the NBTS, about 14 per cent of Nigerians donate blood for monetary gains.

In Lagos State, the major source of blood is through family replacement which is usually derived from mandatory blood donations by spouses of pregnant women during their antenatal services.  

In Africa, Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of donation by voluntary non-remunerated blood donors, widely recognised as the safest source of blood and blood products for patients.

A Professor of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, CMUL, Prof. Sulaiman Akanmu, recounted the benefits of blood in maternal health adding that lack of blood was a big factor in the country’s maternal mortality.

Akanmu insisted that the bulk of women who died during child birth were as a result of shortage of blood supply.

“In Nigeria, 80-90 per cent of maternal mortality is as a result of bleeding complications that we are not able to manage due to shortage of blood.”

According to the Coordinator of the Sound Alliance Foundation, SAF, Dr Samuel Okerinde who recounted the health benefits of blood donation said blood donation reduces iron levels in the blood which could as well prevent cancers.

“Voluntary blood donation ensures good health for the donor.  It helps to reduce weight and it also has good effects on cardiovascular health.   Apart from donating blood, the donor is saving at least three lives.   There is also the fulfillment that as an individual you are helping somebody to live well, save lives, most especially save many Nigerians living with cancer.

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds, someone requires a blood transfusion.

However, experts say the benefits of donating blood include helping people injured in accidents, undergoing cancer treatment, and battling blood diseases, among other reasons.

Unfortunately, current blood shortages are leading to delays in critical blood transfusions for people in need.

However, donating blood saves lives. Medical doctors around the world have relied on the goodness of people to give blood when it is needed.

While blood donors don’t expect to be rewarded for the act of kindness, but it comes with a surprising health benefits.

Studies have shown that when people donate blood, they get free health screening. Before you are allowed to donate,  your vital signs will be checked to make sure you are fit enough for the procedure. This exam might turn up a condition that needs medical attention, such as high blood pressure or a heart arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation.

The health screening will also reveal if you have a rare blood type.

Regular blood donation has been linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart attacks.  Studies have shown that people with a condition called hereditary hemochromatosis must have blood removed regularly to prevent the buildup of iron. Fortunately, this blood can benefit others.

One blood donation can save up to three lives. People usually donate because it feels good to help others, and altruism and volunteering have been linked to positive health outcomes, including a lower risk for depression and greater longevity.

It also creates a moments of kindness during a time of need does wonders for your mental health and feeling of well-being.

Tips before blood donation

Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated makes it easier to find your veins and prevents you from becoming light-headed after donating.

Eat well beforehand. Don’t skip breakfast, and be sure to eat snacks offered to you.

Exercise before donating blood, not afterward. Take iron tablets.