LARA ADEJORO writes on how the incessant poor power supply and shortfalls in blood donation contribute to the already deficit blood supply and safety in Nigeria.
When someone in Nigeria needs blood, their loved ones often look for paid donors and sometimes make an urgent request to family members for the type of blood that is needed.
They are forced to do this because the country’s blood supply is suffering from a huge deficit.
Blood is a significant need for many patients like women suffering from bleeding associated with pregnancy and childbirth, children suffering from anaemia due to malaria and malnutrition, victims of accidents, emergencies, trauma, disasters, and accidents, and people with blood and bone marrow disorders.
World Blood Donor Day is celebrated annually on June 14 worldwide to raise awareness about the need for safe blood and blood products.
In Nigeria, an estimated 2 million pints of blood is required yearly yet the country suffers a shortage of supply as only a quarter of the required blood is collected.
The 5000,000 pints of blood collected is grossly inadequate for a population of over 200 million.
This is even as experts say only five per cent of donor blood used in Nigeria comes from voluntary donors as 95 per cent of donor blood units used yearly in the country are unsafe.
Acting Director-General, National Blood Service Commission, Dr. Omale Amedu told The PUNCH in an interview that most victims of emergencies in the country die because of inadequate blood supply.
“Reports from various hospitals and health centres, especially when people have mass casualties, several of the victims die because there is no immediate blood but we are working on getting the accurate data on this,” he said.
The shortage of blood is further exacerbated by the frequent power outage, cultural beliefs, and shortfalls in donation, putting many lives at risk. Many patients die before they can receive the blood they require.
In January 2022, the National Blood Service Commission announced that 500 units of donated blood were compromised following the decision of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company to cut off electricity supply to the Commission.
The Commission emphasised the importance of power supply to the preservation of blood before distribution to hospitals.
The Commission said, “As it is, no fewer than 500 units of blood collected from voluntary blood donors were compromised following disruption of power supply to the headquarters of the National Blood Service Commission where donated blood is saved in blood banks pending distribution to hospitals.
“In coming days, the shortage of safe blood to patients in need of it will hit Nigerians as a result of the ill-conceived action of the power company unless this flagrant disregard for the lives of Nigerians is addressed.”
Speaking with our correspondent, Dr. Amedu said it is very unfortunate that centres like hospitals and blood service centres are treated like manufacturing companies.
“In the commission, we pay between N600,000 to N700,000 monthly for light, we don’t sell blood and we are not making money from it, we only depend on what the government gives as a fund.
“What happens then was that the electricity company, without warning or notice, just came to cut off our light, yet we are not owing them. The light was cut between Friday night and Tuesday morning, thank God that we have a generator and an inverter, otherwise all the blood in the fridge would have gone bad.
“The action was done without any feeling of the consequences it will have on the population. Even though the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company is a private company, it is also a government parastatal and it must have some kind of waiver for hospitals and health facilities providing emergencies and medical services otherwise if these centres pass these costs to the patient, it will further increase the cost of healthcare for Nigerians.
“There is a need for government and her agencies that health institutions should not be treated like any other company,” Amedu said.
Meanwhile, blood is required to be stored at 2-6°C to maintain the required level of cold-chain, where it has a shelf life of 35 days from the donation.
“The power outage also presents a major deterrent to voluntary blood donors due to the risks to their security and safety as donors,” the Commission noted.
The PUNCH reports as of April 2022, the national electricity grid collapsed for the third time/fifth time the grid had collapsed within the space of one month/year.
The PUNCH reports that the quantum of electricity on the grid crashed from over 3,000MW on Friday, April 8, 2022, to as low as 10MW around 21,00 hours the same day.
There was another collapse of the grid on Saturday, April 9, 2022, as the nation’s power system collapsed to 33MW around 01.00 hours after it had earlier posted a peak generation of 3,281.50MW at 00.00 hours the same day.
Also, the national grid collapsed twice in March and this happened within a space of two days (14th and 15th precisely).
It again collapsed this Sunday around 6.49 pm.
Also speaking with The PUNCH, a clinical haematologist, Dr. Wole Banjoko said poor power supply leads to the compromise of the already inadequate blood supply in the country.
“The epileptic power supply costs us a lot because you have to throw away blood or give bad blood to people. Once blood is not stored at the required temperature, they turn bad and that can lead to death in patients.
“There’s a lot of transmission-related reactions now and we feel it can lead to an epileptic power supply. It’s important that this is fixed and put in place,” Banjoko said.
Calling for more blood donations, Dr. Banjoko said many people need blood and so many people can donate but can’t donate “so we need to increase the drive.”
Adding, Amedu said the lack of power supply is becoming worse.
“For the past one year, we have been begging the electricity company to give us a prepaid metre but they refuse to give us and we have written them so that we can monitor our consumption,” he said.
The theme for this year’s World Blood Donor Day is “Donating blood is an act of solidarity. Join the effort and save lives”. The theme is decided by WHO to highlight the roles that voluntary blood donations play in saving lives and enhancing solidarity within communities.
The day also marks an opportunity to call to action for governments and national health authorities to provide adequate resources to manage access to blood and the transfusion of those who require it.
The way forward, according to Amedu, is proper funding.
“We are looking for investors to come into public-private partnership in ensuring that there is adequate sustainable blood for Nigerians and if private investors come in to invest, some of these issues will be resolved.
“The government needs to invest in this so that Nigerians can have access to a safe blood supply,” he said.
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