A 43-year-old humanitarian worker, Mrs Khadijat Shuahib, has devoted herself to being a voluntary blood donor since 2012 and connects patients and families who need blood during emergencies to voluntary blood donors.
Mrs Shuahib recounts that she became a voluntary donor after the ordeal of obtaining blood for a scheduled surgery.
“I went to almost all the centres in the Abuja metropolis but could not get the desired blood type (A+). I eventually got the blood at a hospital in Gwagwalada (Abuja) after hours of searching. Due to my experience, I realized people go through a lot of emotional, mental, and physical trauma to get blood donations for their families during emergencies.. INow, I use my connection to solicit unpaid blood donations for those in need of it,” she said.
According to WHO, blood and blood products are essential resources for effective management of women suffering from bleeding associated with pregnancy and childbirth; children suffering from severe anaemia due to malaria and malnutrition, patients with blood and bone marrow disorders, inherited disorders of haemoglobin and immune deficiency conditions; victims of trauma, emergencies, disasters and accidents; and patients undergoing advanced medical and surgical procedures.
However, in Nigeria, there is bloodshortage as people who often need it, cannot access it when required.
The Director-General, National Blood Transfusion Commission (NBTC), Dr Joseph Omale, said the shortage of donated blood in the country is evident with the frequent call for blood donation during emergencies.
“The recent attack in Owo, Ondo state and the call to Nigerians for voluntary blood is a classic example of blood shortage in the national blood bank. It indicates that the demand for regularly donor blood outweighs the supply and has a negative impact on timely access for patients who need safe and quality-assured blood to save their lives,” he said.
Stressing the importance of voluntary unremunerated blood donation, Dr Omale said it is the best form of blood generation because the sample would have been critically analyzed and certified safe for use.
Statistics from WHO indicate that Nigeria needs an average of 1.8 million pints of blood annually to ensure sufficiently availability of safe blood for the health system. Unfortunately, the NBTS said there is a shortfall in the pint of blood collected yearly.
For example, statistics from NBTC show that 22,000 units were donated in the year 2000, 25,000 in 2021 and 4,000 units so far, from January to May 2022.
Dr Omale, however, clarified that the figures are not a true representative of blood donated in those years because there has been a haphazard collection of samples across the country.
“The NBTC has been working with partners, including WHO to tackle some of the challenges to ensure Nigerians have quality and safe blood. This includes an ongoing audit with the support of WHO intended to strengthen the capacity of seven centres of the NBTC of Nigeria.
Notwithstanding, in the last two years, voluntary unpaid blood donation in the NBTS has been affected by COVID-19 and has dropped significantly”, he said.
Importance of the life saving act
The WHO Nigeria, with support from WHO Africa Regional Office, is providing technical support to the country in implementing a national blood transfusion strategy, quality management systems and strengthening the legal and regulatory framework for blood safety.
The goal is to ensure an adequate supply of safe and quality assured blood and blood products for patients who need blood transfusions, including COVID-19 patients; through conducting the African Society for Blood Transfusion (AfSBT) on-site formal assessment under the Stepwise Accreditation programme (SWAP)
In her message to commemorate the 2022 World Blood Donor Day, WHO Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moetito, said donating blood is an act of solidarity.
She commended voluntary blood donors for the life-saving act and noted that said becoming a blood donor will help ease the pressure on health systems still struggling under the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WBDD is to raise awareness about the constant need for blood donations and celebrate those donating blood.
This year’s theme is “Donating blood is an act of solidarity. Join the effort and save lives.”