Africa in urgent need of blood donations

Nana Serwaa Brakatuo.

Nana Serwaa Brakatuo.

Published Jun 15, 2023


Cape Town - Nana Serwaa Brakatuo’s chances of survival were bleak without the timely and sufficient blood transfusion needed for her surgery after a car accident in late 2022 in Ghana’s southern Akuse town.

Thanks to blood donations from anonymous donors, family and friends, doctors were able to save her life.

She had lost a lot of blood when she was rushed to a local facility.

“We needed donor blood as a matter of urgency,” said Beatrice Mfoafo, a critical care nurse at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra, Ghana’s capital.

It took three weeks, two surgeries and 30 units of blood to set Brakatuo on the road to recovery.

“Despite our expertise, she would not have survived if we didn’t get the blood she needed. The intervention from blood donors and the National Blood Service was what did the magic for her,” Mfoafo adds.

Brakatuo had no words to express her gratitude, only saying: “I am alive today because people voluntarily decided to donate their blood.”

Her story was highlighted as part of marking World Blood Donor Day on Wednesday. This significant day, according to the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), serves as an opportunity to honour and express gratitude to blood donors who selflessly contribute to saving lives through their invaluable donations.

“In the vast realm of compassion, blood knows no boundaries, no race, or no religion. It is a universal lifeline that connects people from all walks of life, transcending their differences and bringing them together in the pursuit of a common goal – saving lives. On this World Blood Donor Day, we celebrate the incredible diversity of blood donors and the positive impact of their selfless contributions”, said Thandi Mosupye, SANBS senior manager for marketing, communication and brand.

In commemoration of World Blood Donor Day, SANBS organised a series of events and initiatives across the country, including youth-focused blood drives, interactive educational campaigns, and partnerships with high schools in Soweto and Durban.

According to the 2022 World Health Organization (WHO) African Region Status Report on Blood Availability, Safety and Quality, African countries have made progress by establishing nationally co-ordinated blood transfusion services, policy frameworks and national standards for collecting, testing, processing, storing and distributing blood and blood products.

The number of facilities accredited by the Africa Society for Blood Transfusion Step-Wise Accreditation Programme doubled between 2013 and 2020.

Additionally, the number of countries with policies, legislation, national standards and guidelines for the clinical use of blood increased from 19 in 2013 to 23 in 2020.

“This confirms progressive implementation of the WHO regional strategy on regulating blood and blood products,” the report said.

But blood donation rates remain too low to meet the demand, with 38 African countries recording a combined shortfall of more than 3 million units of blood in 2020.

Significant challenges remain, cautions Dr Mohamed Ismail, team lead for Medicines Supply Health Infrastructure at the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

“With blood collection rates still more than five times lower than high-income countries, accessibility to all who need it remains compromised.”

To be eligible, prospective donors must be between the ages of 16 and 75, weigh more than 50kg, and be in good health. Interested individuals can find the nearest blood donation centre by visiting the SANBS official website and clicking on the donor centre map or follow SANBS on its official social media platforms: Twitter (@theSANBS), Facebook (@SANBS), TikTok and Instagram (@thesanbs).

Cape Times