As the world celebrated the World Blood Donor Day, Nigerians have been advised to form a habit of donating blood.
Faith Ajani, a medical laboratory scientist and former National Director, Advocacy, at Blood Drive Initiative, said such a habit goes a long way in saving lives.
Mr. Ajani, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on the significance of the day, called for more advocacy in Nigeria as most people do not understand the need for constant blood donation.
“With this year’s theme, “What can you do? Give blood. Give now. Give often.”, there is an urgent need to orientate Nigerians on the importance of blood donation, especially as voluntarily givers, as it saves more lives if blood can easily be accessed by the health institution and patients when needed,” he said.
Voluntary donors are people that donate without incentives.
World Blood Donor Day is usually celebrated on June 14 every year to sensitise people on the importance of having safe blood and blood products in the blood bank to assist health institutions save lives and also to thank blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.
The World Health Organisation explains that blood is an important resource, both for planned treatment and urgent interventions.
“Blood can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with a higher quality of life, and supports complex medical and surgical procedures. It is also vital for treating the wounded during emergencies of all kinds (natural disasters, accidents, armed conflicts, etc.) and has an essential, life-saving role in maternal and perinatal care”, it stated.
According to the health agency, having a blood service that gives patients access to safe blood and blood products in sufficient quantity is a key component of an effective health system.
It also stressed that ensuring safe and sufficient blood supplies requires the development of a nationally coordinated blood transfusion service based on voluntary non-remunerated blood donations.
However, in many countries, blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety.
Nigeria falls under the category of insufficient blood as blood is usually not available when needed for most patients. This has made health institutions in the country depend on patients’ relatives as donors or paid blood donor services, where people are paid to donate blood for patients.
WHO statistics on blood donation shows that about 112.5 million blood donations are collected worldwide and more than half of these are collected in high-income countries, home to 19 per cent of the world’s population. Only 57 countries collect 100 per cent of their blood supply from voluntary, unpaid blood donors.
It also noted that one per cent blood donation by one per cent of any country’s population can meet the nation’s most basic requirements for blood transfusion
Mr. Ajani said there is a need for a lot of advocacy on voluntary blood donation on a regularly basis, because blood from a paid donor cannot necessarily be trusted as you are not sure of their ways of life.
He said people need to know that they have to donate blood, as one would not know whose life they may be saving, especially with the high cases of accidents and emergencies from disasters and insurgencies.
He urged people not to wait for an emergency before they start donating blood.
“It should be part of our habit. If you go to the blood bank in Nigeria you will hardly see blood in the bank and this is because the advocacy is low. In developed countries, people walk in to donate without being cajoled to do so.
He said perception of blood donation varies in Nigeria across the different geo-political zones.
“From our experiences, we discovered that depending on the geopolitical zones, the perspectives are different. For example, in the East, an average easterner wants to be paid before donating blood. In the North, they believe that if anything happens to anybody, it is God’s will, so there is no much urge to donate blood especially if there are chances that the person is going to die, while in the Southwest, there is also a little bit religious sentiment to it.
“Someone once scolded me about giving blood, that I was giving my life in the process. It is believed that anytime you give blood, you shorten your lifespan, while some religions do not believe in blood transfusion”.
Mr. Ajani also said there was a need to debunk most peoples’ beliefs that blood donated are sold to occultists for ritual purpose. To run an effective enlightenment campaign, he said more funding needs to be put towards advocacy especially in the rural communities.
He said Nigerians, especially those who have lost people due to the lack of blood for transfusion and those who have been recipients of blood donation, should be involved in the advocacy.
“Every organisation in the country can also make it part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, (CSR). Most deaths as a result of loss of blood from accidents in this country can be prevented if there is enough blood in the banks to give when it is needed,” he added.
The Donor Care Manager, National Blood Transfusion Service Abuja, Jane Akubuiro, said they will be using the day to encourage people to donate blood.
Mrs. Akubuiro pointed out that blood donation is also a way of saving lives, in the sense that the donor will also be doing a health check in the process as some screening will be done on the blood and the person’s health conditions and history will be asked before donation.
“We have had cases that it was at the point of wanting to donate blood that some people got to know they are hypertensive because we checked their Blood Pressure (BP).
‘Here we only take sample from voluntary donors, we have about 17 blood donation centres in Abuja.
She stressed that the blood collected at their centres are not used for rituals, adding, “in fact, it cannot be used because the packets we collect the blood into have some chemicals which are called anticoagulants which preserves the blood, and as such blood from our centres are used strictly in saving lives.”
According to WHO, blood transfusion is an essential component of emergency health care as emergencies increase the demand for blood transfusion and make its delivery challenging and complex.
Mr. Ajani said just one pint of blood saves life and that sometimes in life every woman may need blood once in their lifetime, especially during child birth.
“There is no replacement for blood and its components, if it is not there you are actually giving the person an option of death.
He said a man can donate four times in a year while the female is encouraged to donate three times a year “because of monthly loses.”