The World Health Organisation (WHO) has decried the acute blood shortage in Nigeria and other middle and low-income countries and asked the affected countries to reverse the trend. This was part of its message to member countries in commemoration of this year’s World Blood Donor Day (WBDD), which was marked on June 14. The World Blood Donor Day is aimed at raising global awareness on the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion. Available statistics from WHO indicate that out 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.
According to the global health agency, “based on samples of 1000 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.” Similarly, in low-income countries, it is reported 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 percent of all transfusions.
The slogan for this year’s WBDD, “Donating blood is an act of solidarity: Join the effort and save lives,” underscored the need for regular blood donation by voluntary and unpaid blood donors. There is need to create awareness on the need for people to donate blood considering that the provision of safe blood and blood products is essential in every health system. It is sad that Nigeria is among countries with records of blood shortage.
Also, the Acting Director-General of the National Blood Service Commission (NBSC), Dr. Omale Amedu, advised Nigerians to regularly donate blood to improve their health and be able to have children. According to Amedu, regular blood donation not only saves lives but also enables the donor to obtain good health and renewed system. In the same vein, the National President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Uche Ojinmah, used the occasion of WBDD to enjoin Nigerians to donate blood to save lives.
While blood transfusion saves lives and improves health, it is regrettable that many patients requiring transfusion do not have timely access to safe blood. The situation is particularly more acute when there is accident or bloodbath. The medical challenge arising from recent terrorist attack on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, which killed about 40 persons and left 80 others injured, has further demonstrated the need for regular blood donation among Nigerians. Therefore, the provision of safe and adequate blood should be an integral part of the national health care policy of any country. The recent alarm raised by the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, that out of the 200,000 units of blood needed in the state annually, only 50 per cent are met, has further shown the inadequacy of our blood donation system. For a State that has a population of at least 20 million people, the blood donation ratio is grossly insufficient and must be urgently addressed. It is likely that the blood donation situation in Lagos is a reflection of what is obtainable throughout the country.
Healthy Nigerians should inculcate the habit of donating blood. Blood donation encourages safer blood system and helps in building blood bank. It saves the life of both the donor and receiver. Blood donation is part of corporate social responsibility exercise. Adequate blood in the system reduces infant and maternal mortality.
We commend the One-Million-Safe-Blood-Units-Initiative (OMSBUI) project by the NBSC to increase the nation’s blood bank from the present 25,000 to one million by 2023 and three million by 2030. Let other organisations and agencies key into the project. Nigeria, according to WHO, needs an average of 1.8 million pints of blood annually to keep the health of her people safe and sound. Unfortunately, what is collected is only 500,000 pints of blood every year with a shortfall of about 73.3 per cent, according to the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS).
Voluntary blood donation is the best form of generating blood for use in humans than commercially generated blood. There is need for enlightenment programmes on the benefits of blood donation. Let hospitals and health management authorities sensitise the people on the need for voluntary and unpaid blood donation. The misconceptions surrounding blood donation must be discouraged. As a way of encouraging voluntary blood donation, let government give some incentives to donors.