One of the female donating blood on Friday
At the commemoration of this year's World Blood Donor Day (WBDD), 14 June, Head of Blood Transmission Services, Professor Sahr Moses Gevao has stated that the country's blood bank is below the required percentage.
He said the WBDD was established in 2004 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to help raise awareness on the need for regular safe blood donations, availability of blood products and to appreciate voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life saving gifts of blood.
While speaking to newsmen last Friday at the Miatta Conference Hall, Prof. Gaveo noted that WHO has estimated that every country needs 1% of the population to donate blood, but sadly, not up to half of that demand is met in Sierra Leone.
"Sierra Leone's health care unit needs about 70,000 units of blood to serve the needs of the Sierra Leone population per year. By the help of our blood donors, we exceeded 50% of that last year. But this year is a bit difficult for us. Last year we bleed 42,416 blood donors, a little over half of what is required", he said.
He observed that the deficiency was caused by the many myths surrounding blood transfusion, thus calling on media practitioners to dispel some of the myths through their various mediums.
He stated that blood was not sold and that what people spent was a mere service charges that is levied for the analysis of the blood and the compatibility testing in the lab, thus noting that all those that are covered by the free health care initiative were given blood free of cost.
"Because people are generally unwilling to donate blood, their relations resort to the engagement of touts to give blood when it is desperately needed by patient. At time if there is no blood in the blood bank, and even when there is, we normally encourage the relation to bring two healthy donors, but they move around and get professional blood donors we call touts and pay them huge amount of money only to bleed them to the blood bank under the guise of being their relation and this is normally what they refer to as 'I have bought blood," he stated.
He said the shortage can only be discouraged if the population comes up voluntarily and give up their blood to save a life that they don't know which according to him was the greatest gift one can give to mankind.
He noted that voluntary blood donation was not a practice that is normally embraced by Sierra Leoneans, that was why the bank sometimes starved of the required blood percentage.
He said there was no factory where blood was manufactured except in the bone marrow of human beings, adding that every well-meaning Sierra Leonean should come out and voluntarily donate blood.
"We solicit blood from healthy volunteer, after going through several rigorous tests. But I must say that in our country this is a big challenge. A lot of people do not come forward to give their blood voluntarily" he reiterated
Professor Gevao told the garthering at Miatta Conference Hall that the Blood Services Program was to ensure the country have adequate amount of blood for the population.
"Is not just about giving blood it has to be safe. We always ensure that lay down criteria are fulfill before we bleed donor. The major one is: we have to ensure you have enough blood for yourself and enough to give away. Apart from that we have to ask you series of questions and do other investigations to ascertain that you are healthy, if not we don't bleed you," he noted.
Besides the donor the donor safety, the Blood Transmission Services, Prof. Gevao they also ensure that the blood they transfused to the patient is safe and that part of the safety processes includes the screening for diseases, which they refer to as Transfusion Transmissible Infection.
He noted that before they transfused the blood, they do conduct test for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B & C and also perform compatibility testing to ascertain whether the blood they transfuse will be compactible to the receiving patient.
Meanwhile, Umu Latiff Sheriff, who has donated blood 48 times told this medium that she wanted to save a life that was why she normally voluntarily donate blood,
She also dispels the perception that when women are on their menstrual period they don't donate blood.
He stated that by next year IASPO and other donor partners would construct a ultra-modem complex to serve as national blood transfusion center at the former Ebola Kerry town centre.