Gaborone — Despite all the technological marvels uncovered in the past decade in the country's public health care system, the supply of reliable and adequate blood still falls below the desired target.
A huge decline in the number of donors is considered the source of the dilemma.
Blood donor recruiter at the National Blood Transfusion Services (NBTS) Ms Tumelo Ramalebang admitted in an interview to this daunting challenge and said this development has reversed their mandate of ensuring adequate supply of safe and accessible blood and blood products.
Quizzed on the annual demand from the blood transfusion centre which is mandated with providing safe blood to the nation for the treatment of various conditions, Ms Ramalebang said the international prerequisite of two per cent donation from the national population as espoused by the World Health Organisation (WHO) was the target, which translates to 40 000 units annually.
According to WHO standards if the nation was to donate the required units it was to be regarded as sufficient but Ms Ramalebang highlighted that Botswana has never reached the target since the inception of NBTS.
Currently only 27 000 units have been collected, which is considered a deficit.
Despite these depressing figures Ms Ramalebang noted that on a positive development the discard rate of collected blood due to transfusion transmissible infections has decreased drastically.
Ms Ramalebang,a nurse by profession, noted that NBTS has introduced a number of initiatives to encourage safe blood donations, amongst them the Pledge 25 Club.
The club is a non-remunerated youth club that works under the organisation and amongst their objectives is reducing behaviour related infection among the youth, encouraging the youth to donate blood at least 25 times and above in their lives.
The initiative according to Ms Ramalebang has been impressive in keeping young people protected from the HIV/AIDS scourge and other infections because part of the pledge is to maintain healthy lifestyles in order to provide the safest blood.
NBTS has also set up a Donor Relations and Donor Recruitment Units in an effort to provide blood donation education to the nation.
In addition to the NBTS, Princess Marina Hospital has set up its own Autologous Blood donation unit.
Autologous blood donors are those who donate blood for their own use before the scheduled operation, which is usually recommended by the doctor.
WHO made a recommendation that all activities related to blood collection, testing, processing, and storage amongst others be coordinated at national level hence Botswana established the NBTS. Government also formulated the National Policy on Blood Transfusion thus emphasising the importance attached to the role played by the NBTS.
The policy was formulated at a time when the nation was faced with challenges of inadequate supply of blood and blood products, compounded by diverse health challenges including HIV/AIDS, road accidents and other conditions that require blood transfusion.
In May 1985 the Botswana Red Cross Mobile Blood Collecting Unit was established. Its main function was to collect blood from members of the public. In 2000 Red Cross Society staff that was involved in blood collection was incorporated in the NBTS following the launch of the National Policy on Blood Transfusion.
Botswana is also acting in accordance with the World Health Assembly resolution of 1975 which encouraged all countries to obtain all the blood supplies through voluntary unpaid donors.
Source : BOPA