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Botswana Cannot Meet Blood Transfusion Demand

SELEBI-PHIKWE: It is estimated that 80% of the population would require blood at some point, but only one percent of the country's population donates per year, which still falls far below the national demand.

Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital superintendent, Dr Mareko Ramotsababa said that in January alone the northern blood transfusion centre needed 18,700 units of blood to be immediately transfused to patients, but only 9,500 units were secured.

He said at a blood donation campaign in the former mining town on Thursday that the crisis forced the then Minister of Health to go on national television to appeal to the nation to donate blood because medical procedures were on a standstill.

He said that shortage of blood delays medical procedures citing that currently 36 patients admitted in the orthopaedic unit are awaiting availability of blood for their operations to be conducted and more than half of them are victims of road accidents.

He also added that blood donation is crucial to prevent deaths as a result of post maternal haemorrhaging and also or low blood patients.

Dr Ramotsababa said relatives of patients whose medical procedures are delayed as a result of shortage of blood in the blood banks often accuse hospitals of negligence, but said it is important for every individual to ask themselves when last did they donate blood.

He said it is a concern that some want to donate only when it is their relatives who need blood and said some even suggest to hospitals to procure blood from private hospitals.

He explained that private hospitals do not have separate blood banks, but that they too get supplied from the blood transfusion centres just like government hospitals.

  Botswana subscribes to the World Health Organisation guidelines that require two percent of the population to donate blood annually in order

to meet its blood transfusion demand. 

This has forced the Pledge 25 Club Cycling to circle around 14 places in the country to mobilise the public to donate and maximise blood collection.

 The cycling campaign targets raising 2,000 units of blood.  Currently districts only supply 24% of blood, secondary schools 34%, and churches only one percent while tertiary institutions supply only 11% of blood to the transfusion centres.

Brigadier Joseph Eno Seelo, who is the Commander of the Second Brigade Group, said the national target for blood collection is 45,000 blood units annually which amounts to two percent of the population and said if achieved it would be sufficient for the country’s demand. 

He said that the fact that an average of 27,000 units is collected annually shows that only a few people are participating.

“Shortage of blood carries the risk of complicating certain conditions and worse situations cause death,” he said.

He added that the cycling tour, which is a blood donation awareness activity, is a build up towards the World Blood Donor Day slated for Mahalapye next week.

Seelo said blood donation as an expression of community participation in the health system will go a long way in ensuring uninterrupted blood supply.

“Blood donation benefits all societies and adequate supply can only be ensured through regular donation by voluntary and unpaid blood donors.

 There is also the need for committed year-round blood donation in order to maintain adequate supplies and achieve national sufficiency of blood.  I am happy that 60% of blood donation comes from the youth both in school and out-of-school,” he said.




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