Encouraging blood donors to save lives

Advocates for voluntary blood donation marching on the streets of Abuja yesterday

Advocates for voluntary blood donation marching on the streets of Abuja yesterday

AS part of efforts to mark the World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) 2015, the Abuja centre of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, called for increased regular blood donations from voluntary, unpaid donors in order to save millions of lives globally each year.

The theme of this year’s campaign, celebrated every June 14, is “Thank you for saving my life”. The WHO encourages donors all over the world to donate blood voluntarily and regularly with the slogan “Give freely, give often. Blood donation matters.”

WHO estimates that a minimum of 10 donations of blood per 1000 population indicates there is general availability of blood in a country for transfusion. Yet, in the Organization’s most recent survey on blood safety and availability, 75 countries reported collecting fewer donations than this.

According to the WHO, the percentage of blood donations from voluntary unpaid donors has been increasing over the last decade and 73 of the world’s countries now collect over 90 per cent of their blood supply from such donors.

However, the WHO said that more progress is needed, with 72 countries -eight high-income countries, 48 middle-income countries and 16 low-income countries- still collecting more than 50 per cent of their blood supply from paid donors or replacement donors, which affects safety and adequate supply of blood and blood products.

Replacement donors are often family members or friends who replenish blood used from a blood bank by a particular patient.

Regular voluntary unpaid donors the safest source

However, Project Coordinator, Abuja centre of the NBTS, Dr. Omo Izedonmwen, said one of the greatest challenges Nigeria faces is the non-availability of accurate data and the practice of blood safety.

Izedonmwen in a chat with journalists said there is insufficient data on the exact amount of blood that is needed or utilized. However, the NBTS estimates that about 1.5 to 1.7 million units of blood is needed per annum, given the current population and the level of development of the country’s health system.

He, however, said it is estimated that between 1.1 to 1.3 million units of blood is collected from various sources, with more than 85 per cent coming from commercial donors.

The NBTS boss said the deficit accounts for many deaths, including the death of women and children thus leading to the high maternal and child mortality rates.

He said in an attempt to address this deficit, the NBTS has instituted various programmes such as: the Hospital Linkage Programme, Conversion of Family Replacement Donors to regular donors, encourage pregnant ‘father’ donations, media campaigns among others.

Izedonmwen said amongst intending blood donors, hepatitis B ranks the highest of all the Blood Borne Infections (BBIs), with eight to nine per cent of potential donors reactive for the hepatitis B surface antigen. “It is followed by Hepatitis C with two to four per cent then Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) with 1.8 to 2.3 per cent,” he said.

On what percentage of donors that comes forward have safe blood, Izedonmwen said between 85 to 90 per cent of the blood collected within the NBTS network return safe after screening. “Again this is not unexpected, because the donors are voluntary non-remunerated, they tend to lead healthy life styles as opposed to commercial that is paid or family replacement donors who are compelled to donating blood beyond altruistic reasons,” he said.

Izedonmwen insisted that adequate supply can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors.

Zonal Coordinator, North Central, NBTS, Jos, Plateau State, Dr. Sunday Ayodele Bolorunduro, said the country requires one per cent of its population to satisfactorily meet its demand and that Nigeria will require approximately one million four hundred thousand units of blood annually.

Bolorunduro who is also a Colonel in the Nigerian Army, Chief Consultant Anaestiologist to the Ministry of Defence and Pioneer Coordinator of the Armed Forces Blood Center, Port-Harcourt, Rivers, said the NBTS was challenged by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to raise its operations. He said a mass appeal was made that since Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever it was wise to have enough stock to meet any emergencies should the need arise.

Bolorunduro said the NBTS now has 17 fully operational stand-alone blood centres spread across the six geo-political zones of the country, among other things.

WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, said: “The best way to guarantee a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products for transfusion is to have a good supply of regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors. WHO encourages all Member States to obtain all their blood supplies from such donors.”

According to the WHO, transfusion of blood and blood products help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions to live longer and maintain a higher quality of life, and it supports complex medical and surgical procedures. Transfusion has an essential, life-saving role in maternal and child-care and during man-made and natural disasters, such as the recent earthquakes in Nepal.

The WHO noted that severe bleeding during pregnancy, delivery or after childbirth is the single biggest cause of maternal death. Of the 289 000 women who died in childbirth in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, 27 per cent were due to severe bleeding.

The WHO, in a statement to mark the WBDD, said: “The need for blood and blood products is increasing every year and in many countries – particularly low and middle income countries – demand exceeds supply, and blood services find it hard to make sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety.

“In 2012, nearly 108 million blood donations were collected worldwide. Almost half of these were collected in high-income countries, home to just 15 per cent of the world’s population.”

Coordinator for Services Organization and Clinical Interventions Unit in the Department of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO, Dr. Hernan Montenegro, said: “Blood collection from voluntary, unpaid donors, whose blood is screened for infections, is the cornerstone of a safe and sufficient blood supply in all countries. More voluntary blood donors are needed to meet the increasing needs and to improve access to this life-saving therapy.”

A World Health Assembly resolution adopted in 2010 highlights that a secure supply of safe blood components, based on voluntary, unpaid blood donation, is an important national goal to prevent blood shortages.

Director of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO, Dr Edward Kelley, said: “Safe blood transfusion is one of the key life-saving interventions that should be available for patients in need.

“Yet, equitable access to safe blood still remains a major challenge in many countries. Providing safe and adequate supplies of blood and blood products should be an essential part of every country’s national health care policy and infrastructure.”

The Organization provides policy guidance and technical assistance to support countries in developing national blood systems based on voluntary unpaid blood donations, and implementing quality systems to ensure that safe and quality blood and blood products are available and used appropriately for all people who need them.

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