Dear Citizen Nigeria, Blood is gradually becoming scarce, especially in screening centers in Nigeria. Blood is an essential resources, allergenic blood is more of demand today against what obtained in the past. Increasing elective surgery, shortage/ fall in supply, a lack of national blood transfusion service policies, appropriate infrastructure, trained personnel, sub-optimal recruitment and retention of voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors due to wrong cultural belief, financial resources to support the running of a voluntary non remunerated donor transfusion service, and existing and emerging threat of transfusion- transmitted infection, all contributed to the essential but limited nature of allergenic blood and it scarcity to health care delivery particularly in sub-Sahara Africa, including Nigeria.
Presently, 108 million people donate blood annually in the world, half of this coming from developed countries although it is developing countries that constitute a larger percentage of population of the world where blood id seriously required. Most developing countries, Nigeria included rarely meet the nation’s basic requirement for voluntary unpaid blood donors, only about 62 countries meet up with the basic requirement; this is largely due to poverty, ignorance, superstitious beliefs and lack of awareness of in various developing countries.
Blood and blood components transfusions are required every day to save millions of lives in various hospitals. Presently, in Nigeria 1.8 million unit of blood is required per annum. Put differently, if just 10% of 180 million Nigerians commit to regular unpaid voluntary blood donation then Nigeria will be on the list of countries meeting up with their basic requirement. The vanguard of voluntary blood donation in Nigeria is led by National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) alongside NGO with similar objectives, including Calidad Human Health and Development Initiative (CHDI), however this has been tasking due to aforementioned factors.
Moreover most donors prefer to donate blood in dire circumstance, when the life of a close relative is threatened, thus Nigeria mostly witness paid blood donation. Estimate has it that out of 1.8 million unit of blood required annually, larger percentage is been source from paid donors. Most general and specialist hospital in Nigeria, people are often of standby to donate blood for a fee. Patients suffering from shortage of blood, who can’t relay on direct donors (friends, family and close relatives) often times turn to pay the price. Private and voluntary donors account for less than 20%. This is due to effort made by NBTS and various NGO with similar objectives to create awareness for voluntary unpaid blood donations.
These are just some of the challenges facing blood transfusion in Nigeria. Greatly affected are the patients who lose their lives in the process. Medical practitioners constantly become frustrated, in an obvious difficult situation to uphold Hippocratic Oath to save life, when blood need to save lives is not readily available. Today, demand for blood far out weight the supply. The situation is worsening with lack appropriate legislation to guide actions and inactions as regards blood donation both in public and private segment of the society. Absence of this have gave undue advantage to hospital to employ unsavory tactics in sourcing for the precious fluid. Insufficient funding greatly affect voluntary donation as adequate supplies for safe blood is not always readily available. Coordinator of NBTS, Abuja centre, Dr. Omo Izedonmwen told LEADERSHIP weekend that “The major challenge is that there is no enough blood in the bank in the first place, because we are not collecting enough. This is because blood can only be manufactured in human body.
There is no laboratory that can manufacture blood. So there is need for Nigerians to donate blood for Nigerians so if people are not donating enough, so there will be no blood in the bank.” He continued: “In Abuja and its environs, we estimate that we need about 4000 to 5000 units of blood every month. But what we collect in Abuja centre is barely 500 to 600 units depending on the month. So you can see the huge difference. So when people come here and they can’t find blood, it is not that we don’t want to give them, it is simply that we don’t have enough. We have other challenges such as inadequacy of funding, challenges related to misconceptions and misbelieve, myths surrounding blood donations among Nigerians which make them shy away from donating.” According to Dr. Abigail Itodo, NBTS programmed manager “The main challenge is getting people to donate blood freely.
Nigerians have a lot of beliefs about donating blood. Some people will tell you, ‘I don’t even have enough, so why should I donate. Others feel that if they donate blood they will fall ill. So a lot of beliefs led to this shortage of blood issue.” To change Nigerians belief on blood donation, Dr. Izedonmwen noted that all Nigerians should be involved in changing misconceptions about blood donations. “It is not just the NBTS that should be responsible in changing Nigerians belief system about blood donation.
What people belief is what they belief in. So you cannot just wake up one day and try to change it. It needs a gradual transition process to change that belief. So we need the hands of everybody to change such beliefs.” There is enormous benefiting of donating blood; greatest among all is the psychological feeling of saving a life couple, however its need to be said clearly that we are all duty bound to save life by virtue of dignity enshrined in human life, in which we all share in common. None of us can raise a family, heal a community, build a nation or lift a country totally alone, our world appreciate and operate with the spirit of togetherness, thus together we are going to take care and cater for the vulnerable (shortage of blood, malnutrition, HIV/Aids) in our society.
Together we will save one another, Together!