The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) has a special bank for people with blood group 0- (negative), a rare group known as a universal donor as anyone can receive blood from it.
However, those who are blood group 0- can only get transfused from a person of a similar group.
KNBTS thus reckons that with if more people know their blood group, this blood type will be constantly available whenever a patient is in urgent need of it.
“When we test around 10 to 20 people, there might be only one, who is 0 – (negative),” said Kiprono Chepkok, head partnership and County Support KNBTS. “We have therefore identified people who have blood 0- (negative), whom we depend on, during an emergency.”
Chepkok said Blood Group 0- is geographically more common among people in the Central region where at least 40 per cent of the people have either blood group 0- (negative) or 0 + (positive).
There are different types of blood groups, namely A, B, AB and O and which are also either divided into Rhesus - either Rhesus negative or Rhesus positive.
People with Rhesus positive can get blood from Rhesus negative but Rhesus negative cannot get blood from rhesus positive, “because the body will form an antibody against it,” explains Chepkok.
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He encourages people in relationships to do blood tests, to know their rhesus and that of their spouses.
They should also test for sickle cell anaemia, especially in coastal and western regions. This should be done before marriage, to prepare them for what is expected in their children.
KNBTS is also moving away from risky donors (hospital replacement), because if there is a genetic problem within the family, this can pose more risk as such may lead to faulty information.
But with regular donation, the country is able to get blood that can be stored for future use.
“I am pleading with Kenyans to develop the culture of donating blood. People should know that the more they donate blood, the more their bone marrow is activated,” he said.
“We have adequate reagents for screening blood. We are therefore liaising with counties to help in the mobilisation drive, to attain the target,” said Chepkok.