World Blood Donor Day: WHO decries acute blood shortage in Nigeria, other low-income countries

 Urges mandatory screening for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis
• NBSC boss says regular blood donation increases fertility
• Expert calls for national haemovigilance system

As part of activities to mark the World Blood Donor Day (WBDD), today, June 14, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has decried acute blood shortage in Nigeria and other middle and low-income countries, even as it urged mandatory screening for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis before any blood donation.

The slogan for this year’s commemoration is “Donating blood is an act of solidarity: Join the effort and save lives.” The WBDD is aimed at raising global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion.

The WHO, yesterday, in a statement, said national blood system should be governed by a policy and legislative framework to promote the uniform implementation of standards and consistency in the quality and safety of blood and blood products.

It noted: “Safe blood is essential for helping people of all ages who suffer from diseases, disasters and accidents. Your donation saves lives and makes our community safe.

“Blood is always needed to save lives and treat people. Show your solidarity to the community and contribute with regular blood donations!

“The need for blood is universal, but access to blood for all those who need it is not. Blood shortages are acute in low- and middle-income countries. In low- and middle-income countries, women and children are most affected by shortages as they are the ones who need blood most.

“To ensure that everyone who needs transfusion has access to safe blood, all countries need voluntary, unpaid blood donors who give blood regularly.

“Giving blood is a life-saving act of solidarity with others. Services providing safe blood and blood products are essential for every health care system.”

WHO recommends that all blood donations should be screened for infections prior to use. “Screening for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis should be mandatory. Blood screening should be performed according to quality system requirements. Of reporting countries, 10 are not able to screen all donated blood for one or more of the above infections,” it noted.

Recall that there had been a passionate appeal for willing donors to submit blood in the wake of the terrorist attack on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State on June 5, which killed about 40 persons and left some 80 others injured.

President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Uche Ojinmah, had called on Nigerians in the affected area to visit the hospitals where the injured were being treated to donate blood to save the lives injured victims.

MEANWHILE, Acting Director-General of the National Blood Service Commission (NBSC), Dr Omale Amedu, has urged Nigerians to regularly donate blood to improve their health and be able to have children.

Amedu gave the advice in an interview with newsmen in Abuja ahead of the Day. According to him, regular blood donation not only saves lives but also enables the donor to obtain good health and renewed system.

“Donating blood has so many advantages as it will make one look fresher, younger, healthier and have prolonged life. This is because as you donate blood, the old cells in the blood system are taken away.

“So, if you are a regular donor, that means the old blood cells are taken and you manufacture fresh blood cells. You are servicing your system by renewing your strength, vigour and the contents of your system,” Amedu said.

He shared a testimony of a donor, who was unable to conceive for more than 12 years, in spite of a series of medical checkups that found nothing wrong with her.

He said: “But through the process of donating blood without seeking any medical help, she was able to conceive naturally and became pregnant. So, we can see that the renewal of the cells in the body, through blood donation, carries a lot of advantages.”

He encouraged more non-remunerated or unpaid blood donors to key into the commission’s One-Million-Safe-Blood-Units-Initiative (OMSBUI) project to increase the nation’s blood bank.

According to Amedu, when you are asked, requested or coerced to donate blood to someone you know, it means you are saving someone you know, “but voluntary unpaid donors are committed to saving the lives of unseen and unknown persons, and for that, we appreciate them for what they are doing.

“Our target is to ensure blood units collected will increase from the present 25,000 to one million by 2023 and three million by 2030,” he said.

He added that this year’s theme is to highlight the critical contributions voluntary, unpaid blood donors would be making to national health systems, as voluntary blood donation not just saves the lives of sick people in need of blood, but also accident victims, many of whom die due to scarcity of blood pints in hospitals across the country.

Continuing, Amedu said blood establishments in the country must be regulated because of the “the need to ensure that the quality of blood collected, screened and transfused to patients is optimal and unlikely to be a source of harm,” stressing that every single unit of donated blood and blood product is screened for the WHO mandated blood-borne infections including HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis.

ANOTHER expert and Consultant Haematologist, Dr Peter Ogundeji, has called for the establishment of a national haemovigilance system to ensure quality and safety in blood transfusion.

Ogundeji, who works at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, yesterday, said the existence of robust machinery for haemovigilance in hospitals and blood banks was not fully entrenched in the country.

Haemovigilance is a set of surveillance procedures covering the whole transfusion chain from the collection of blood and its components to the follow-up of recipients.

Ogundeji said that haemovigilance monitored possible adverse effects associated with blood transfusion therapy and reported such to appropriate authorities for the investigation to prevent their recurrence.

According to him, such reports should be properly coordinated between the blood transfusion service, hospital clinical staff and transfusion laboratories, regulatory agencies, and national health authorities.

He, however, said that blood transfusion reaction was rare if the right measures were taken in the processing of the blood.

The haematologist noted that the commonest cause of blood transfusion reaction was identification challenges, arising from giving the right blood to the wrong person due to a lack of appropriate measures.

However, there is a lot of quackery ongoing in the medical profession with unqualified doctors causing all manner of consequences.

Ogundeji noted that the National Blood Service Commission Law signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2021 regulated blood transfusion services in Nigeria. He appealed for the domestication of the law by more states and the implementation of the regulation to improve blood transfusion service in the country.

Ogundeji noted that the legislation would coordinate, regulate and ensure the provision of safe, quality blood transfusion services on a country-wide basis within the national health plan.

The haematologist also called for more funding for blood transfusion service centres to drive voluntary blood donation programmes.

Speaking on the World Blood Donor Day, Ogundeji stressed the imperative to increase awareness of the need for voluntary and unpaid blood donation by citizens on a regular basis. He recommended that men should donate blood once in three months, while women should donate once in four months.

“Anyone who is generally fit and well can donate blood as long as they fit the donor eligibility criteria,” he said.

Ogundeji, however, said some people might not be eligible to donate blood on a temporary basis due to some health, travel or lifestyle reasons, among which was unprotected sex.

LATEST figures from WHO showed that of the 118.5 million blood donations collected globally, 40 per cent of these are collected in high-income countries, home to 16 per cent of the world’s population.

It noted that in low-income countries, up to 54 per cent of blood transfusions are given to children under five years of age; whereas, in high-income countries, the most frequently transfused patient group is over 60 years of age, accounting for up to 76 per cent of all transfusions.

According to the WHO, 99.8 per cent of the donations in high-income countries and 99.9 per cent in upper-middle-income countries are screened following basic quality procedures, as compared to 83 per cent in lower-middle-income countries and 76 per cent in low-income countries. The prevalence of transfusion-transmissible infections in blood donations in high-income countries is considerably lower than in low- and middle-income countries.

The WHO noted: “Based on samples of 1,000 people, the blood donation rate is 31.5 donations in high-income countries, 16.4 donations in upper-middle-income countries, 6.6 donations in lower-middle-income countries and 5.0 donations in low-income countries.


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