As the National Blood Transfusion Service, NBTS, experiences underfunding, obsolete equipments and inadequate technical staff, there are indications that blood scarcity may hit Nigeria.
The looming danger risks the lives of over 1 million Nigerians; mostly accident victims, pregnant women as well as sundry blood needs and patients diagnosed with sickle cell anemia who rely so much on blood for survival.
While the NBTS also does not have adequate data to support the blood needs of the people, because of its current predicaments, it is estimated that the unmet blood requirements by the organisation is put at over 500,000 units per annum.
Speaking exclusively to the Nigerian Pilot Sunday in Abuja to commemorate the World Blood Donor Day, WBDD, Coordinator, National Blood Transfusion Service in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Dr. Omo Izedonwem, disclosed that the national blood bank may be out of service if the current challenges, like underfunding, obsolete equipments and inadequate technical staff are not addressed.
‘The NBTS has been serving the nation for the past 12 years and unless funds improve for the agency, it may be out of service. And if the service is out of business of supplying blood to patients and hospitals, then the lives of many Nigerians would be in jeopardy’ he said.
According to him, the looming consequence of shortage of safe blood in the country means that Nigerians would face the risk of unsafe and contaminated blood and blood racketeering in the hospitals and impoverishment of patients.
He explained that the major financier of the NBTS, the American donors known as the President Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief, PEPER, is almost completely withdrawing their funds.
‘’In the last three years, funding has been a problem for the service, it is even worse because the American donor PEPER, who used to fund it, has withdrawn funding to a large extent, but the funding they are enjoying is to get accreditation by the African Blood Society, ABS,” he said. This is affecting the service to the public.
He lamented that once the major financier, PEPER, pulls out their money, almost all activities in the agency would grind to a halt, adding that for the tenacity of workers, the place would have been closed down by now.
“The issue of withdrawal and inadequate funding has created a serious manpower challenge as about 225 project staff of the agency have been disengaged due to lack of money to pay salaries”, adding that the staff and service personnel have not being absolved by the Health Ministry.
According to the Centre Coordinator, “about 225 project staff, which forms the backbone of the service, are being disengaged because there is no money to pay salaries: and ‘’We have not being absolved into the Federal Ministry of Health, we still work on an ad-hoc basis with the ministry,” Izedonmwen lamented.
On the ageing equipments, he explained that most of the equipments used in screening at the centres are getting obsolete and dwindling in usefulness. The Nigerian Pilot Sunday gathered that some of the equipments in use for screening are close to 10 years old and are beginning to reach the twilight of their lifespan.
Earlier at a news briefing to mark the World Blood Donor Day in Nigeria, the National Coordinator of the NBTS, Dr. Oluwatoyin Smith, revealed that the blood agency needs the sum of $5 million yearly to run its activities.
This, Smith noted, is compelling since the country requires more blood donation to exceed the 1.7 million units needed to service the nation.
She noted that the service was getting trickles of funds from the ministry even though about $5 million is required every year to run the agency.
According to her, the required $5 million is the amount needed to make NBTS function adequately and to survive but she added that government has just approved 28 million naira for the agency as capital fund. ‘’We are taking a portion of what comes to the ministry, we expect that when funding to the ministry improves, then funding to the NBTS will improve.’’
Smith agreed that most of the equipments in use at the NBTS have been there for the past 10 years but still in use.
‘’I would not say that they are obsolete because we are still using them and we are still screening. We have 10 screening centres nationwide and like every other equipment, they would run down and we repair and rejuvenate.
“This is what we are doing’’, she said.