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Backyard abortions dry up blood banks

BABOKI KAYAWE
Increases in the rate of backyard abortions are driving demand for blood transfusion in the country, health officials have revealed.

The startling disclosures came as Botswana marked World Blood Donor Day on Sunday with the message that a great need for blood still exists to cater for delivering mothers and women suffering from cervical cancer. Medical practitioners at the commemoration noted that women lose a lot of blood during the illegal termination of pregnancies. Abortion in Botswana can only be legally carried out in pregnancies as a result of rape, defilement or incest, or where the pregnancy puts the life of the mother at risk or may cause harm to her physical or mental health. In addition an abortion can also be carried out where the unborn child would suffer or later develop physical or mental abnormality.

Marina Hospital’s Dr David Tamuhla spoke strongly against early indulgence in sexual activities which he said leads to unintended pregnancies. Moreover, he cautioned women against multiple partners, as this is a factor in the prevalence of cervical cancer. He said patients with chronic illnesses such as Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and cancer were also at risk, as were victims of domestic violence who suffer excessive bleeding.

“In addition to traumatic incidents such as traffic road accidents and surgeries, fights and assaults among boyfriends and girlfriends are on the increase. These are very worrying because conflict among lovers is something that can be prevented,” Tamuhla said. He said as doctors they also face challenges rendering blood transfusion services to members of some religious sects. He said followers of such religions reject blood transfusions arguing

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that “blood is life” and hence they cannot receive life from another person since God is the sole provider of life. Henry Modirwa, a religious blood donor who has contributed to the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) banks more than 60 times, said the benefits for him were immense.

Modirwa started donating in the early 1990s after hearing and internalising the message of ‘Blood is Life, Blood Saves Life’.  “Donating blood has helped me know my status. At the moment I know that I don’t have any ailment and that my blood pressure is okay. I also lead a cautious lifestyle that doesn’t expose me to risks,” he said.

Gorata Dibotelo, who fell ill shortly after graduating from the University of Botswana some years ago, also shared her testimony about benefiting from a blood transfusion. Sharing her testimony with throngs of blood donors who celebrated their day of recognition, Dibotelo thanked every donor for saving her life.  The young woman had a blood transfusion in 2011 when she had a viral infection due to internal bleeding resulting from busted ulcers.

“I was vomiting black substances due to that condition,” she explained.

“I was admitted and had a transfusion of three pints. It was then that I realised that some of the things we take for granted actually can save lives.” At the commemoration, local blood donors were commended for their voluntary services, as statistics show that only 62 countries were getting sufficient blood supplies from voluntary non-remunerated donors.



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