Social media appeals for blood donations by Kenya Red Cross speak of a serious shortage in hospitals. This month alone, the Red Cross has made 10 appeals.
For long, blood collection programmes in the country were funded by the US' President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar). However, the programme was adversely affected after Pepfar withdrew funding in September 2019. Considering that at least 80 per cent of the funding was done by Pepfar, it is easy to understand why Kenyan hospitals are facing a blood supply crisis.
The cash-strapped Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services (KNBTS) agency cannot fill the void left by Pepfar, which calls on the Health ministry to pay more attention to this very critical aspect in healthcare. Situations where demands are made on relatives of patients to donate blood should not arise.
Importantly, if the government embarked on sensitisation campaigns to convince people on the need to willingly donate blood, the situation could be turned around.
Cultural mores, fear of dying after donating blood and the fear of being tested for the dreaded HIV/Aids have contributed greatly in keeping people away from voluntary blood donations.
Turning KNBTS into a parastatal would give it leeway to seek out sponsors to ensure a stable supply of blood in our hospitals.
According to KNBTS, a minimum of 1,500 units are required on a daily basis. KNBTS' target of 3,000 units daily can be surpassed if just one per cent of Kenyans are persuaded to donate blood. This is not a difficult dream to achieve.
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