Monrovia — As part of its effort in revamping the health system after the deadly Ebola virus disease, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) has celebrated World Blood Donor Day under the theme: "What can we do? Give Blood. Give Now. Give often." in commemoration of World Blood Donor Day.
The event took place on Tuesday June 14, 2017 on the premise of the Montserrado Regional Blood Bank and Donation Center, 5th Street Sinkor Montserrado County, Liberia.
Speaking at the program, Lwopu M. Bruce, Program Director of the National Blood Safety Program at the Ministry of Health said the campaign is intended to raise wider awareness for the need of safe blood for life saving, adding that life threaten conditions, medical and surgical procedures, and maternal and parental care are key factors for which blood is needed most to save lives.
"Liberia has a history of paid blood donation and family members are the first point of contact for blood donation for their ill relatives. Medically this is not a safe practice for all of us, it is risky to depend on paid donors for blood" she said.
She said Liberia has come a long way and still struggling with the transition from paid blood donation to voluntary unpaid blood donation, something she said is a major challenge that needs to be tackled by all Liberians.
"Blood is so valuable that no one should put a price tag on a unit of blood, because it is a gift of life."
"Therefore individual should be able to give blood willingly without a price for the purpose of saving lives" she noted.
Director Bruce added that the National Blood Safety Program was established in 2009 by the MOH with the mandate to transition from the situation of paid blood donation to voluntary unpaid blood donation, stressing that the vision of the institution is to achieve 100% voluntary non-remunerated blood donation in Liberia.
"We recognize that voluntary non-remunerated blood donors are the foundation of a safe, sustainable blood supply. Without a system based on voluntary unpaid blood donation, particularly regular voluntary donation, no country can provide sufficient blood for all patients who require blood transfusion" she averred.
Also speaking on behalf of Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Gertrude Mulbah said the theme of the celebration is significant for African region that have been affected by crises and outbreaks, such as the Ebola virus epidemic, road traffic accidents, armed conflicts, natural or manmade disasters, adding that such emergency increase the demand for blood transfusion and make its delivery challenging.
"Everybody can play a role in emergency situations by giving blood. Blood transfusion is an essential component of emergency healthcare."
"This year's theme raises awareness for voluntary, regular blood donations to maintain sufficient stock of blood and blood products in blood transfusion services" she said.
She said despite the progress, there are still major gaps in some countries and the sub-regions on policy implementation, coordination of blood services and legislation, stressing that the region is still falling short of meeting its blood needs.
"As we commemorate World Blood Donor Day, I urge countries and all the stakeholders to get involved in blood donation to support and strengthen advocacy for voluntary, unpaid blood donation to maintain adequate supplies of safe blood. This will allow national blood transfusion services to respond in time to the increase in blood demand, especially during emergencies" she noted.
At the same time, Assistant Minister for Preventive Services at the Ministry of Health, Samson K. Arzoaquoi express thanks and gratitude to the WHO and other development partners for their continuous effort in helping the government of Liberia revamp the health sector.
Minister Arzoaquoi said blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to an individual in the time of need, asserting that those who give blood are special people in addressing the health needs of the country.
"I want to extend a very special gratitude to the numerous young men and women, the elders and all those who continue to sacrifice their own life in an effort to save the lives of other. Those who give blood are very special people" he said.
The Assistant Minister for preventive services at the MOH lauded WHO and other partners for their continue support in ensuring that the health system remains viable to respond adequately to the health needs of the people of Liberia.
"Our blood safety program in this country is largely donor driven, and so currently there are institutions that continue to commit finance, that continues to provide logistics and material support to our blood program in this country. "
"Therefore, I am of the opinion that in the absence of this support, we would not have a viable blood program as we do currently" he asserted.
He also noted that as a nation there is a need to formulate a national blood policy and a legislative frame work to support the national blood program to ensure the harmonization and stabilization of the blood program throughout the country.
For his part, Arkie J. Tarr, a participant and voluntary blood donor said blood is one of the most precious resources that cannot be manufacture, adding that in order to maintain a good health system and reduce the death rate there is a need to donate blood in order to save lives.
"The importance of giving blood is to save lives and the life you saved could be your mother, father, sister and brother, so if you join the process of donating blood you will be saving your life too" he said.
Arkie Tarr who was certificated with others as the highest blood donor used the occasion to call on all well-meaning Liberians to join the process in the fight for a vibrant heath sector.
"I want to encourage everyone, especially the young people to donate blood. Think about your mother, father, brother and sister don't think about yourself," he added.