Solidarity and empathy stood out in Kenyans’ response to the terrorist attack on the Dusit complex with abundant support to the victims and their families and security personnel witnessed.
Of the ‘in-kind’ donations, the appeal for blood donations received an overwhelming response. Shortly after it was broadcast, hospitals had long queues of blood donors.
Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services (KNBTS) reported collecting an exceptionally high 822 units of blood in only three days.
According to the KNBTS director, Dr Josephine Githaiga, Kenya needs about 450,000 units of blood annually.
“Last year we collected 150,000 units of blood, representing 83.3 per cent of the annual target of 180,000 units,” she said. “Every 10 minutes, about seven Kenyans need blood and are at risk of dying.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) standard states that for the country to claim blood sufficiency, we need at least one per cent of the 45 million Kenyans to donate blood at least once a year.
Blood is an important element for survival. Ease of access to safe and quality blood and components is crucial in reduction of maternal deaths.
Women and children are the most affected by the blood shortages. Postpartum haemorrhage contributes to 35 per cent of maternal deaths (287,000), making it one of the most common causes, says the WHO. Others are people with non-communicable diseases such as cancer, anaemia and kidney or liver ailments, survivors of road accidents and those in medical emergencies.
The challenge of blood donation is not unique to Kenya; all other developing countries are faced with a serious shortage of blood in the national blood banks. This is attributed to many factors, such as lack of awareness by the public on where to donate blood.
The greatest challenge, however, is the lack of a culture of making blood donations among citizens. Many times, people donate blood only when there is an appeal. Medically, it is recommended that a healthy person donates blood at least three or four times a year — for women and men, respectively.
Blood has a short shelf life, lasting for 35-42 days depending on the preservatives used. This means that, to meet the demands of blood in our healthcare system, there is a need for more Kenyans to adopt a blood donation culture.
The public and private sectors, too, should formulate policies and sustainable solutions to blood shortages.
Corporate bodies have played a huge role by encouraging their staff to donate blood. Others are working with the government to deploy a donor management programme with the intent to encourage first-time donors’ transition to regular voluntary non-remunerated blood donors.
Blood must not only be safe from transfusion transmissible infections (TTIs), but also meet the highest quality in terms of treatment benefit specified in the national or WHO Essential Medicines List.
Donating blood is one of the easiest and safest procedures. It plays a vital role, saving the lives of millions of people.
A unit of blood can save up to three lives as blood is separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets. If these blood products are made accessible, there would be no need to have the blood appeals common whenever tragedy strikes.