By Protus Onyango
A person who urgently needs blood transfusion in Kenya to save his or her life is likely to die.
This is because there is a chronic shortage of blood in the country and the situation is set to worsen as school holidays approach because students are the main donors of blood to the national kitty.
Revelations by the medical fraternity indicate that the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services (KNBTS) is operating below capacity, is mismanaged and lacks a clear road map for getting and storing more blood.
Set up in 2001, the centre is charged with processing and screening of blood. This includes maintenance of cold chain, testing and screening of blood, removal from circulation and destruction of contaminated, blood and preparation of different blood products.
But medical practitioners are now faulting the national body for failure and exposing Kenyans to death. “Kenya needs 200, 000 units of blood per year to deal with illnesses, surgeries, accidents and other medical conditions but we can’t raise half of the volume. I think the government erred in making KNBTS the sole collector and distributor of blood.
The organization has leadership wrangles and is inefficient. It has no plans to collect more blood and this jeopardises the lives of our people,” said a doctor in Embu on condition of anonymity.
The shortfall is aggravated by the daily road accidents and the bombings carried out by Al Shabaab that leave survivors in dire need of blood. Due to the shortfall, only the most urgent cases are being taken care of. Blood in Kenya mainly comes from school-aged children, patients’ relatives and even from patients themselves.
According to KNBTS, less than 10 per cent of adult Kenyans donate blood. “The big reason for this is because of fears among potential donors that they would find out their HIV/Aids status.
Sources say the centre’s total blood bank has sometimes had as low as 40,000 units. The most blood Kenya has ever had on hand is 130, 000 units, which is half the target amount.
Investigations by The County Weekly reveal a bleak situation across the country. Workers at the blood transfusion unit at Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya’s largest public health care facility; say blood shortages have impacted negatively on medical procedures at the hospital.