Blood donation and transfusion is one medical method of saving lives of people seriously in need of blood for survival, especially in emergency cases. In this piece, JOYCE REMI- BABAYEJU looks at Nigerians without the NBTS and safe blood service.


Nigeria joined the rest of the world in marking the World Blood Donor Day last Tuesday. It joined the leading country, the Netherlands and other countries to celebrate this important live saving day.
Although this is Nigeria’s 8th edition of joining the world in celebrating the day, the state of blood safety and services in the country is still hanging in the balance. More so that despite the service of the National Blood Transfusion Service, NBTS, to about 170 million Nigerians, the country is not still sure of sustaining the present national blood bank.
This means that Nigerians are not too sure of continual benefits of blood safety service despite the importance of this commodity in saving lives of millions of people who depend on it.
The coordinator, Abuja Centre of the National Blood Transfusion Service, Dr. Omo Izedonmwen who spoke to Nigerian Pilot said that although blood safety and service is still a growing culture among Nigerians, the response in recent times are encouraging, despite being plagued by uncertainty.
According to Izedonmwen, this year’s celebration is low-keyed with the theme ‘’Blood connects us all’’ with a slogan, ‘’ share life give life’’. It is all about sharing humanity together. However, how far are Nigerians responding to being their brothers keepers by giving voluntary blood donation to their neighbours?
He said ‘’Blood safety in Nigeria is a growing tradition that we are trying to imbibe and educate and inform the general public to accepting voluntary non-remunerated blood donating as part of our culture.
‘’Before now, about two people may walk into the centre to do voluntary blood donation but with the level of sensitization by the NBTS through the media more people which are referred to as ‘walk in donors’, the number of donors has increased from two to about six people per day.
‘’The level of sensitisation the service has achieved is encouraging in terms more people walking in to do voluntary non-remuneration blood donation but we are not yet where we want to be because we measure the level of sensitisation by the number of people who walk into the service to voluntarily donate their blood.
‘’We see the number jumping from 2 to 10 voluntary donors in a day. This shows that the Nigerian public are beginning to enjoy some level of sensitization and the culture of blood donation’’, he said.
In average, about 6 people would walk into the centre to donate blood every day. The situation is gradually getting to a point where all blood donated are actually none remunerated. There is an increase.
Nigeria needs about 4,000 units of blood annually to save lives of people who are in dire need of it for survival. People who need blood include victims of health complications, road accident victims, bomb blast victims and of course for pregnant women with complications and newborns, under-five children.
A public report, U-Report, recently stated that in Nigeria at least 34% of pregnant women die in labour as a result of complications arising from bleeding and lack of blood. This means that blood transfusion at critical times helps save lives of this vulnerable group.
Inasmuch as blood transfusion is essential at times for survival and life saving, the continuity of National Blood Transfusion Service, NBTS, the national blood bank and only sole agency in charge of blood service and safety is facing threat of discontinuation.
The sad story surrounding this essential agency in the healthcare system in the country is that it is facing series of challenges. The NBTS which has served the nation in the last 12 years is presently facing the challenge of inadequate funding and if the trend continues, the service may close shop. 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.
First of all, Nigerians face the risk of unsafe and contaminated blood and blood racketeering in the hospitals and improvishment on patients.
The Abuja centre which used to be some sort of busy with movement of workers and donors is almost becoming quiet with few workers on board.
Izedonmwen, said that the major funders, the American donors known as the President Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief, PEPER is almost completely withdrawing their funds. And this is affecting the service to serve the public.
“In the last three years, funding has been a problem for the service. It is even worst because the American donor PEPER that 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.
Once the Americans pull out their money, almost all activities are almost grinding to a halt. If not for the tenacity of workers, the place would have been closed down. The issue of withdrawal and inadequate funding has created a serious manpower issue.
Presently, about 225 project staff which form the backbone of the service are being disengaged because there is no money to pay salaries. The staff have not been absolved into the Federal Ministry of Health. They work on an adhoc business.
Another serious challenge is ageing infrastructures which have been in use over time. Some of the equipments in use for screening are close to 10 years old and are beginning to reach the twilight of their lifespan. Another challenge is public misunderstanding or the myths, cultural, religious barriers which militate against voluntary blood donation.
But thank God that Nigerians are gradually overcoming this with the aid of Nigeria media helping in sensitizing people on the need for voluntary blood donation and live saving.
Yet another challenge is that the blood safety and service in Nigeria is still not regulated by adequate laws to back it up. The service has drafted the Blood Safety Bill which is with the Minister of Health to be pushed to the National Assembly for approval and consent.
Away from the misconception of voluntary blood donation and transfusion, there are inherent benefits for indulging in it. Firstly blood donation is saving lives of somebody you don’t know at all. Blood donation helps to keep society live.
One of it is that the more an individual gives blood, there is a psychological relief that one is saving somebody else’s life. Secondly, medically proven the older red blood cells can only live in a person’s body 120 days, after that it is obsolete. The more you give blood, the more the body is stimulated to bring out new ones and the areas that manufacture blood, the bone marrows, are kept active.
Studies show that for those who donate blood, their marrows are kept younger and active. There are other theories that blood donation helps to reduce the likelihood of getting cancer and iron overload in the body.
Government ought to step into this pitiable condition which NBTS has found itself, as well as stop this foot dragging over signing the Blood Safety Bill into law.
This is the only way the service can continue to serve the public by continuously saving the lives of those Nigerians who need blood transfusion for survival.QUOTE

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