The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Africa still falls short of meeting its blood needs in spite of increase in the number of donors in the region.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday to mark the “World Blood Donor Day 2017”, celebrated annually on June 14.
She said the 2016 report on the status of blood safety and availability in the region revealed that the number of blood donations between 2013 and 2016 increased from 3.9 million units to 4.5 million units.
Moeti, however, added that in spite of the progress, the region could only meet 50 per cent of its annual blood needs.
She said that the report further revealed that collecting blood from voluntary, unpaid and regular blood donors was safer, more effective and efficient than family replacement donations.
The regional director commended voluntary blood donors and encouraged them to “continue giving this valuable gift regularly to ensure sufficient blood stock before emergencies occur.”
She pledged the support of WHO to blood donor associations, Non-Governmental Organisations and those working to make safe blood available in healthcare facilities.
Moeti said the WHO regional office for Africa would continue to support appropriate initiatives aimed at ensuring that safe, life-saving blood and blood products were available for all, particularly in emergencies.
She noted that “as we commemorate World Blood Donor Day, I urge countries and stakeholders involved in blood donations to support and strengthen advocacy for voluntary, unpaid blood donations to maintain supply of safe blood.
“This will allow national blood transfusion services to respond in time to the increase in blood demand, especially during emergencies.
“There are major gaps in some countries and sub-regions, including policy implementation rate, coordination of blood services and legislation.
“Africa is unable to meet its blood needs and the proportion of blood units collected from family replacement donors is high.
“Five countries are still not screening all units of blood for major transfusion, transmitting infections such as hepatitis C and syphilis.
“This is due to the lack of essential reagents and consumables for blood safety and lack of quality management systems in several blood services in the region.”
Moeti said everybody could play a role in emergency situations by giving blood, adding that blood transfusion was an essential component of emergency healthcare.
She noted that the theme for this year’s celebration is “What can you do? Give blood. Give now. Give often”.
According to her, the theme raises awareness for voluntary, regular blood donation to maintain sufficient stock of blood and blood products in blood transfusion services.
She explained that the choice of the theme was particularly significant for the region, which was most affected by crises and outbreaks such as the Ebola virus disease, road traffic accidents, armed conflicts, natural or man-made disasters.
The regional director said such emergencies increased the demand for blood transfusion and made its delivery challenging.
She said many victims of crises die because of lack of blood and blood products, noting that they also risked infection when transfused with unsafe blood.
Moeti said the serious humanitarian crises facing the region in recent decades revealed inadequacies of national health systems in most countries to manage health emergencies.
She said this included inadequacies in timely availability, security and accessibility of blood.