Make blood donation and transfusion transparent and easy for all Kenyans

Human blood in storage bags.

Kenya’s blood bank is running on empty, and the institutions mandated to collect, secure and distribute this life-saving substance are understaffed and underfunded. This, experts warn, is a dangerous dalliance with fate which could land the country into a deep abyss of death. This is coming to light following an expose carried by the Saturday Standard today.

It is worrying, that the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services (KNBTS), the organisation which collects and processes blood for hospitals for transfusion is nearly empty. KNBT has only collected a paltry 164,275 units against a target of 300,000 units. Worse still, the critical outfit is seriously understaffed and some crucial machines have broken down.

It is also instructive that over reliance on school children for blood donations has exposed Kenya to grim risks. The recent terror attack at dusitD2 hotel on 14 Riverside Drive in Nairobi, has demonstrated that Kenyans are ready and willing to donate blood. But the problem could be how blood donation camps are planned and executed.

There are possibilities too that potential blood donors are unwilling to do so for fear that it will later be sold. Cases abound of relatives who have had to part with money to secure blood from hospitals, which at first claim they do not have it, but later avail it from their vaults once they have been paid. Given the unpredictability and inevitability of emergencies and disasters, policy makers must rethink blood donation and distribution, ensuring that every measure is taken to screen and secure enough blood to cater for emergencies at any one time.

At the same time, while it is commendable to teach school children the importance of donating blood, it is equally important or all Kenyans to develop a culture of giving blood, twice a year to ensure the country never runs out of supplies. The country also needs a transparent mechanism so that blood given free by donors is not sold to the highest bidder while the most deserving patients who may not have money to buy it are left to their own devices. Failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail. This should not happen in blood transfusion because it compromises peoples’ lives.