By CHRISTIANA NWAOGU, Patience Ihejirika
The Nigerian health sector is facing a huge shortage of blood to treat needy patients.
LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that while the annual requirement of blood by sick Nigerians, particularly those on emergency care, is 1.8 million units, the latest revelation by the Red Cross indicates that in recent years, the National Blood Transfusion Service has not obtained more than 66,000 units per year.
That translates to a deficit of over 1.7 million pints. LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that this deficit is either filled by paid donors – which are not saved, or the blood is not there at all; that means people can die for reason that could be prevented.
Our correspondents also gathered that out of the 66,000 units received per year, only 10 per cent of the available units of blood is obtained through voluntary donation. Donation from family members accounts for 30 percent while commercial donation accounts for 60 percent.
This development, according to experts, is not only disturbing but calls for urgent actions to reverse the trend, otherwise, patients will continue to die for lack of blood.
Describing this statistic as disturbing, the national coordinator, National Blood Transfusion Service, Dr. Oluwatosin Smith said:
“We are talking about the need for blood transfusion. Blood is needed for emergency in cases of big surgeries when patients bleed in case of accident and when women deliver and bleed.
One of the causes of death for women who deliver at the maternity ward is bleeding”. She explained that voluntary blood donation is a healthy habit that most Nigerians can engage in as a means of relieving the shortage of blood supply in the country and also improving their heart health by reducing excess iron in the body that predisposes individuals to cardiovascular diseases.
Another expert, medical director, Jalingo clinic, Abuja, Dr. Mustapha Yusuf who disclosed that blood donation improves heart health, said, “We want to talk to Nigerians to save lives by donating blood. Blood donation is safe and nothing can happen to a blood donor; it is a good health practice to donate blood.
According to him, anything more than 12.5 grammes of blood will only overstress the heart. Donation itself acts as a form of exercise, because if one pint of blood is collected, one will be losing about 650 calories.
“With regular donation, you are at a great advantage not to develop diseases associated with heart problems because you have made your heart works at a pace that is proportional to your body mass. Whether a person donates blood or not, every 120 days, the red blood cells are naturally replaced, so it is advisable to give blood to save lives.
“People with chronic disorders, cancer of the blood, accident victims, pregnant women, and fire outbreak victims can benefit from the pint of blood you are donating.” they said .
It would be recalled that the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) and Traumacare had in July this year raised the alarm over the deficit of blood in the country, warning that Nigeria’s blood bank was drying up. NBTS corroborated the Red Cross and World Health Organisation’s (WHO) claims with its confirmation that it had not got more than 66,000 units per year.
Meanwhile, WHO has warned that adequate supplies of safe blood can only be assured through regular, voluntary, unpaid donations.
The organisation expressed worry that the African region was not meeting its blood needs, as patients requiring transfusion were dying due to blood shortages. Its regional director in Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said although most countries have made significant progress to improve the availability and safety of blood, the demand for blood transfusion is increasing.
Moeti therefore urged Nigeria and other African countries to support voluntary blood donations as a solidarity act for all, and to ensure that national blood services have sustainable funding for blood safety programmes.
Meanwhile, the minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has said that the Executive Bill for the establishment of National Blood Service Commission has been approved by the Federal Executive Council.
He said the bill, when enacted into law, will serve to consolidate on the gains made in the last 13 years and take the National Blood Service from its current status to the next level, in line with international best practices.
Speaking on the benefits of voluntarily blood donation, Adewole said “studies have shown that people who voluntarily donate blood have the likelihood of living longer and the majority of the people who are regular blood donors rarely suffer from anaemia of the aged.”
He also said that blood donors have the opportunity to undertake free health screening and a mini blood test before every donation at the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) centre.
The minister revealed that repeated blood donations enhance the production of new blood cells, improve the overall cardiovascular health and could lower the risk of severe cardiovascular events such as stroke by 33 per cent.
He therefore encouraged all healthy Nigerians to take advantage and enjoy the invaluable benefits. As part of measures aimed at bridging the gap, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) in collaboration with Trauma Care International Foundation recently organised a national blood donor registration across the country.
The exercise was aimed at bridging the gap between the demand and supply of blood in the country. Coordinator, Trauma Care Foundation, Abuja, who is also the Managing Director, Alliance Hospital Abuja, Dr. Chris Otabor said the aim was to meet up with the 1.8 million units of blood required annually in Nigeria to meet the blood need of patients in hospitals.
Dr Otabor said the objective of the campaign was to get a minimum of 10, 000 persons to register and regularly donate safe and quality blood voluntarily for use in hospitals.