Mr. John Nathan was recently celebrated as the highest private voluntary blood donor in Nigeria. The Federal Ministry of Health and the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), officials confirmed that he donated blood voluntarily 55 times in the past few years.
John’s case was used to neutralise the fear of other Nigerians that regular blood donors risked diseases that could lead to untimely death. He said: “I began to donate blood voluntarily some years ago after I was properly educated about the benefit of regular blood donation.
“As recommended, I donate blood once in four months. And I have been consistent in doing that. I might not be privy to the information but I know I have saved lives.
“My motivation was not to make money as others choose to do. I could have also placed a price for each donation but I choose otherwise because I want to give life to other people whose body system could not produce sufficient Red Blood cells for sustenance.
“I have obviously enjoyed good health since I begun to donate blood. I am married and we have a baby boy and my wife can attest to the fact that I hardly break down in sickness.”
The Holy Bible confirmed that life of a flesh is in the blood. Such knowledge could have, perhaps, encouraged Nigerians to feed more on foods that are rich in iron and hemoglobin. But those whose body systems could not produce sufficient Red Blood Cells for sustenance, rely on others for safe and quality blood for survival. Maternity homes, emergency ward of hospitals are most users of blood.
Few days ago, the residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), joined the rest of the world to celebrate the World Blood Donors’ Day. It was an opportunity to raise awareness on the need to freely donate blood for the use of patients in hospitals.
Regrettably, reports from the health ministry indicated that there are inadequate safe and quality blood for the use of patients in hospitals. Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, corroborated the report at an event to commemorate World Blood Donors’ Day in Abuja. That was where John was celebrated.
The minister disclosed that 1.8 million units of safe and quality blood are required annually in Nigeria to service the need of patients in hospitals. He was unhappy that insignificant 10 percent of blood is donated voluntarily, while family replacement and commercial donations account for 30 and 60 percent respectively. He challenged NBTS and other stakeholders to develop realistic strategies that would improve the available records to an appreciable figure.
To this end, the NBTS joined force with Trauma Care International Foundation (TCIF), to launch a new campaign that would, expectedly, herald a significant boost in available safe and quality blood for patients. The campaign would complement several other sensitisation programmes in Nigeria to achieve the objective of improvement in voluntary blood donation in Nigeria.
Senior Executive Officer of TCIF, Dr. Olajumoke Akisanya, said the campaign to be done simultaneously across Nigeria, would expose the people to the health benefits of periodic voluntary blood donation. She confirmed that the campaign was targeted at 10, 000 persons that would be regularly available to voluntarily donate safe and quality blood for regular use in hospitals.
She was convinced that the campaign would provide the opportunity to educate and convince more Nigerians to give life to people in critical health conditions in hospitals. But in spite of the advocacy and other campaigns, the responses from Abuja residents have been discouraging.
Director, Monitoring and Evaluation, in the ministry, Dr. Olusola Idowu, suggested a change of approach to convince more Nigerians to donate blood voluntarily. Dr. Chris Otabor of Alliance Hospital, Abuja, dismissed the fear that regular donors risked diseases that could have devastating health effect on their lives. He said regular donors, aside other health benefits, enjoy longevity because their red blood cells are replaced at the end of every 120 days.
A resident of Abuja, Mrs. Emem Ita, confessed that she has heard about the campaign for voluntary blood donation but had regularly turned deaf ears to it because of “side talks” she had heard about blood donation: “These days of many blood related diseases, I can’t afford to expose myself. I have heard many ugly stories of how people’s blood is being contaminated through such means. I can’t please. Thanks.” she ended.
Another resident, Oluwaseun Idowu, outrightly rejected the suggestion, saying that it is against his faith to donate blood for the use of patients in hospitals. In acknowledgement of the need for regular voluntary blood donation, he encouraged those who could donate to regularly visit the centers for that purpose.