Former Minister of
Health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu once expressed concerns about what he described as poor attitude of the public to blood donation in Nigeria.
He noted that the attitude had resulted in adequate annual blood volume collected in the country.
According to him, 1,130,000 units of blood are collected annually through various types of donations as against 1,336,000 estimates of blood units needed by Nigerians to survive.
He said the shortage had also resulted in numerous preventable deaths, especially among women, children and people living with certain diseases.
“In Nigeria, we are currently faced with a situation whereby 60 per cent of all blood donations are from commercial donors, 30 per cent from family replacement and only 10 per cent are from voluntary donors’’, he said.
In view of this development, stakeholders in health sector agree that there should be a pragmatic approach to sensitising the public to the need for voluntarily blood donation.
They observe that the theme of this year’s World Blood Donor Day on June 14 —“Thank you for saving my life’’ —should be a good platform for such advocacy.
For effective campaign, the World Health Organisation (WHO), in collaboration with International Society of Blood Transfusion, says the theme is aimed at highlighting stories from people whose lives have been saved through blood donation.
It explains that the campaign will encourage regular blood donors to continue giving blood and motivate people in good health who have never given blood to begin to do so.
It insists that the increasing need for blood globally requires everyone to contribute by donating blood and motivating others for the cause.
In the same vein, Prof. Temitope Alonge, the Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital, Ibadan, said that voluntary blood donation was indispensable to life-saving health care services.
“Blood is key to survival, when you donate money, you give food but when you donate blood, you give life; absence of blood is equivalent to death,’’ he said.
He emphasised that Nigerians needed to be sensitised on the importance of voluntary blood donation to ensure comprehensive life-saving health care services.
Alonge also called on health workers to have the right attitude by encouraging more Nigerians to participate in voluntary blood donation.
“Their attitude depends on how you relate to them and what things you say to them.
“We have a blood donor group who are clinical psychologists and their mandate is to sensitise Nigerians to the importance of blood donation.
“When you donate blood, your bone marrow comes alive and gives you fresher, cleaner and newer blood,’’ he said.
He assured the public that Nigeria had good equipment to screen blood, insisting that blood donation and its transfusion were safe.
Corroborating this claim, Dr Baba Ahmed, the Head of Clinical services, National Blood Transfusion Services (NBTS), noted that blood collected by the service was always screened for HIV, Hepatitis B and C virus and syphilis.
According to him, the service ensures proper screening of all blood units and intended blood donors to prevent possible transmission of infection as mandated by WHO.
“We make sure that the temperature of the blood is maintained from the point when it is collected so that it is viable for use.
“We have blood bank refrigerator, specifically meant to store blood which is maintained within specific temperature,’’ he said.
He stressed that the service gave out blood through referral letters from hospitals recognised hospitals only.
Ahmed, nonetheless, expressed concern about Nigerians attitude to blood donation, observing that they, more often than not, waited until there was accident or emergency situations before coming to donate blood.
He said that there were some major surgeries that required blood and NBTS must always have blood in its blood bank.
He insisted that lack of public awareness on voluntary blood donation, among others, were parts of the causes of depleted blood bank in the service.
Concerned citizens, therefore, note that as Nigerians join the rest of the world to celebrate World Blood Donor Day, it is essential that everyone should support the campaign on voluntary blood donation.
They observe that since blood is vital in every area of medicine, its availability is required at every point in time when it is needed across the country.
Nwachukwu writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)