Last Wednesday, the world observed the World Blood Donor Day to underscore the importance of blood to existence and to encourage safe blood donation.
Observers note that the slogan for the 2017 World Blood Donor Day — “What can you do?’’ was apt in educating the willing donors on what is expected of them by a follow-up sub-theme of the observance– “Give blood. Give now. Give often.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the observance would focus more on blood donation in emergency cases and how can people assist in blood donation.
It says the campaign highlights the role of everybody in helping others in emergency situations by giving blood and the need to donate regularly for a robust blood bank.
The organisation, however, says safe and sufficient blood supplies require the development of a nationally coordinated blood transfusion service based on voluntary non-remunerated blood donations.
Canvassing for more voluntary blood donation for sufficiency during and after the observance, the Country Representative of WHO in Nigeria, Mr Rui Vaz, said the call was imperative because more than 65 per cent of blood donation in the world was used by children below five years of age.
“Some of the children that need the blood can be due to some communicable diseases such as malaria fever and other infectious diseases, while African region has half of what it ought to have as blood donors,’’ he said.
Vaz said the organisation would continue to provide support, formulate policies and guidelines and ensure more awareness campaign on the donation of safe blood.
Similarly, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) pleads with Nigerians to cultivate the habit of voluntary blood donations as a means of saving the lives of people in critical conditions.
The National Coordinator of the service, Dr. Oluwatoyin Smith, said regular blood donation improves a donor’s overall cardiovascular health.
He also observed that consistent blood donation was associated with lower risk of cancer in the liver, lungs, stomach and the colon.
“Donation of blood is good for the health of donors as well as for those who need it. It is important that blood donation takes place in the hospital or clinic or a blood bank; in the presence of medical experts.
“Donation of blood can help in treating patients suffering from cancer, bleeding disorders, chronic anaemia associated with cancer, sickle cell anaemia and other hereditary blood abnormalities.
“It is important to know that the human blood cannot be manufactured, people are the only source and that is why it is important to donate blood and help those who are in need of it,’’ she said.
Smith said there must be some guidelines for blood donors, noting that the age bracket of the donors must be between 18 years and 65 years of age.
She said they must weigh more than 50 kilogrammes, while the haemoglobin level should be above 12 decilitres.
“There is no risk in donating, particularly at the NBTS where the donation is carefully carried out.
“NBTS takes a brief medical history, a mini-medical check, pre-donation counselling, donation process and post-donation counselling,’’ she said.
She called for full participation of state governments in the implementation of the National Blood Safety Programme.
She also explained that the campaign would ensure sustainable and coordinated blood service in the country.
“During the 58th meeting of the National Council on Health, the meeting approved NBTS memorandum requesting state governments that host NBTS centres should take over the ownership and management of such centres.
“The meeting also directed states that do not currently have blood service centre to establish centres,’’ she said.
According to her, all coordinators of NBTS centres are directed to actively engage state governments and states’ ministries of health on taking over the responsibility and management of the facilities in their respective jurisdictions.
She, nonetheless, said some states such as Cross River and Taraba had absorbed members of staff of the NBTS, while Katsina State was in the process of doing same.
Smith emphasised that it was important for the country to take full ownership of the Blood Safety Programme in line with the dictates of the National Blood Policy and the resolutions made at the meeting.
She also said the service needed adequate funding to ensure consistent supply of safe blood, a task she said, required the support of the Federal Government, multilateral and bilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations.
For proper functioning of the organisation, she said NBTS draft bill that would grant the organisation the autonomy to carry out its mandate would be presented to the National Assembly soon.
According to her, NBTS has 17 blood centres, including six in each geo-political zone, 10 in states and one in the Federal Capital Territory.
“Nigeria’s blood need is about 1.7 million units per year which is one per cent of its population,’’ she said.
However, volunteer blood donors observe that in recognition of voluntary blood donation in 2015, the NBTS, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, presented an award of honour to a graphic designer, Mr Akpan Nathan as the highest blood donor in Nigeria from 2005 to 2015.
It was also learnt that an assistant editor of a newspaper organisation, Mrs Joyce Remi-Babayeju was recognised for her extensive news reports on blood donation awareness campaign in the country in 2015.
Nathan donated blood 42 times within the period while another donor, Miss Blessing Oshita was honoured as second highest, donating blood 17 times within the period.
Nathan, however, said he was inspired to donate blood because he saw it as a way to save lives and he encouraged the youth to cultivate the habit of blood donation.
“To save a life is very important, imagine an accident victim who has lost a lot of blood and is at point of death, your blood donation can save his or her life,’’ he said.
He said, as many would ask, what can I do during the observance of World Blood Donor Day, the answer should be:”Give blood. Give now and Give often.’’
Onifade writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).