The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated June 14th 2020 as the World Blood Donor Day to “thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood and also to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations…”. Timely access to affordable and safe blood and blood products are integral to universal health care delivery.
This comes at a time when Kenya is particularly experiencing an acute and persistent shortage of blood and blood products in the country.
The blood situation in Kenya has been worsened by the ongoing Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic that has strained healthcare systems across the world. The obligatory measures put in place in response to the virus such as constrained mobility and physical distancing hamper the smooth running of blood services, leading to reduction in donations and blood shortages in hospitals and maternal deaths, some of which have been reported in the press.
It is for these reasons, that a number of like-minded partners have teamed in an effort to help alleviate the dire situation. The team brings together the Ministry of Health (through the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service – KNBTS), the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), The Standard Group, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), PharmAccess, Amref Health Africa in Kenya, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, Damu Sasa System Limited, Kenya Red Cross Society and the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC).
With each partner bringing their unique capabilities, the Unity Blood Donation and Awareness Drive is a testimony in teamwork. The campaign appeals to Kenyans to turn up in large numbers to donate blood from June 12th to 14th 2020, learn more about the life-saving power and health benefits of blood donations.
According to a statement from AMREF, the three-day drive, which has been planned and will be conducted in line with the government’s guidelines on COVID-19, will take place at grounds of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi. Donors outside Nairobi can make donations at nearest health facilities they can access.
Aaron Ogunde, Director of Damu Sasa System Limited, noted that utilizing the company’s Damu-Sasa technology platform will allow for donor registration and scheduling to avoid congestion at the donation centres. This will ensure blood donations continue in adherence to social distancing directives.
“We are grateful for these crucial efforts considering the challenging blood situation in the country, which has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic,” noted Charles Rombo of the KNBTS, adding that, “every unit of blood counts towards saving lives.”
UNFPA Representative Dr. Ademola Olajide noted that, achieving zero preventable maternal deaths will be predicted largely on a secure and timely access to safe blood. Pregnancy and its complications including bleeding do not stop because of COVID19. Therefore, such innovative solutions to tackle the challenges of blood shortage is transformative and life-saving.
“We understand the impact the pandemic has had on the healthcare system. We support the government, its agencies and all Kenyans in efforts to alleviate the worst through collaboration such as this one targeting the alleviation of blood shortage,” noted Dr Elizabeth Wala, Director, Health Systems Strengthening Project at Amref Health Africa.
Isaiah Okoth, Country Director, Kenya at PharmAccess said that “having sufficient blood stock at hand to handle emergencies ensures service is uninterrupted and lives are saved, translating to better health outcomes.
“The shortage of blood in the country is well documented even as demand continues to rise. The challenge we have is that there has been a decrease in the number of those willing to voluntarily donate blood. Such blood drives will help bridge the gap and ensure blood availability in the Country and especially in hospitals to save a life during critical times, commented Dr Asha Mohammed, Secretary General, The Kenya Red Cross Society.
Last year, Kenya collected 164,000 units of blood against the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended minimum of 1% of the population (480,000 units). This is the bare minimum that WHO expects of Kenya’s population ratio against the maximum of 960,000 units per year.