30 January 2018

Uganda: Let's Swiftly Donate Blood and Save Lives

opinion

There is an acute shortage of blood at blood banks and many hospitals. Because of the long school holidays, mobilising a larger group of blood donors has been difficult.

The Uganda Medical Association has warned of a blood crisis. The blood bank, it is reported, has just a few blood units remaining, not enough to meet the average daily requirements in the city and the country at large.

Because of the shortage, doctors are compelled to defer emergencies and surgeries. That means pregnant mothers whose deliveries cannot be deferred are at a great risk. It means accident patients and others in dire need of blood risk losing their lives.

For crises like this, blaming government alone is not helpful. Standing up to take responsibility is what we should do. The ministry of health has made an appeal to the general public to donate blood.

Every person eligible to donate should respond swiftly to this call. People should rush to the nearest blood bank or donation point and donate blood.

Political leaders, whether from opposition or government, religious leaders and civil society organisations should all join effort to mobilize citizens to take part. Government should fully facilitate the work of blood banks to amplify their capacity to coordinate and respond to this urgent need.

While foreign donors can step in to help for crises of a different nature such as natural disasters, this is not the case with scarcity of blood.

The responsibility entirely falls on our shoulders to demonstrate leadership, compassion, humanity and responsibility.

Blood is an invaluable resource. It is both scarce and abundant. Scarce because there is no technology that can manufacture it. Abundant because every adult person in good health has enough blood for himself or herself and most times extra units to donate. Every healthy person between 18 and 60 years, weighing 45 kilos or more is eligible, and can safely donate one unit of blood (350ml or half a litre) at an interval of every three months. This means one person can donate blood four times annually, contributing four units of blood.

With a population of about 42 million people and about 49.4 per cent between 15 and 65 years (according to World population prospects, 2017 version), if there is proper coordination and mobilisation and if every person took it upon themselves to donate a unit of blood every three months, scarcity of blood would not be a problem; more mothers would have safe deliveries, and more lives would be saved.

It is important to note that donation is beneficial not only to the recipient but to the donor as well.

Medical practitioners agree that donation helps in the production of new blood cells, improves the overall cardiovascular health, burns calories and reduces the risk of cancer. For males in particular, it reduces the amount of iron in the blood which reduces the chance of heart attack.

While menstruation helps women to reduce excess iron in the body, only donation can reduce it in men.

For altruists, there is no greater act of generosity than sharing one's blood. Blood, it has often been said, saves lives. So, the act of donating blood is actually participating in the project of saving lives.

The beauty is that majority of us can afford. We may not have enough material possessions to share with the poor and orphans, but we have extra units of blood to give to those that desperately need it.

The Bible says 'freely you received, freely you should give'.

Similarly, freely we receive enough blood in our bodies and we are lucky to be in good health, freely we should donate it those in desperate need of it.

The author is a lawyer and a regular blood donor, bdeniso4@gmail.com

Uganda

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