Abuja, 15 June, 2021 – “I am a regular blood donor. I usually donate blood at least three times a year. However, in 2020, I donated once – in February – due to the pandemic and lockdown. During the lockdown, I received several reminders from the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) Abuja, where I usually donate, but the fear of covid-19 prevented me from donating. However, I plan to resume donating again”, says Adebowale Adedigba, a voluntary non-remunerated blood donor.
Mr Adedigba who is one Nigeria’s few voluntary unpaid donors said his initial visit to a donating site in 2012 was accidental. He was educated on the shortage of blood in Nigeria and its impact on those needing it, since then, he decided to become a regular donor.
“Being young and at the prime of my youth, I know I am helping many people who are needing blood. I am O positive, and my blood can save many people. I also use the opportunity to know my health status as I get regular screening anytime I donate. I urge everyone who is healthy to participate, he said.
Transfusion of blood and blood products helps and save millions of lives every year. Despite the lifesaving properties of blood donation, only a few Nigerians are regular and voluntary blood donors. Blood is needed for surgical procedures, as well as to treat severe anaemia, inherited blood disorders, and other conditions.
The World Health Organization commemorates World Blood Donor Day to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products like plasma. This day is also an opportunity to thank and appreciate voluntary, unpaid blood donors for this life-saving gift.
The day celebrated on 14 June each year also provides an opportunity to call to action to governments and national health authorities to provide adequate resources and put into place, systems and infrastructures to increase the collection of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors.
This year’s theme is “Give blood and keep the world-beating” is apt because fewer people – just like Mr Adedigba- have been donating blood during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, NBTS has 17 blood donation centres across six geo-political zones which leads to the collection of over 60 000 units of blood annually. However, in 2020, there was a decline in the rate of donation due to the covid-19 pandemic. The National Blood transfusion services carry out blood donation drives with support of implementing partners.
NBTS and WHO system for blood safety reporting indicated that a total of 158,378 voluntary non remunerated blood donation were screened between January 2018 and May 2021 from federal institutions reporting in the database.
In her message to commemorate 2020 World Blood Donor Day, WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti encouraged more young people to donate blood to save lives and to inspire their peers and families to do so too.
She noted that though bloodstock decreased in the African Region as movement restrictions and fears of infection hindered people from accessing donation sites, some blood donors even during the pandemic made extraordinary efforts to continue to donate blood.
She said this was made possible due to the “awareness campaigns backed by the collaboration of donor associations, civil society organizations, and armed and security forces, have led to good levels of voluntary donor recruitment in Nigeria and seven other African countries (Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo and Zambia).
In Nigeria, WHO has been providing support to NBTS in the drive for blood donation through blood drives awareness creation and the reporting of blood safety data in the country. The reporting currently covers all the tertiary institutions and it is scheduled to be scaled up to cover all secondary-level facilities including the private sector.
This year’s commemoration, NBTS with the support of WHO will be recognizing the 10 highest donors who have continuously donated the gift of life as a way to encourage Voluntary non-remunerated donation of Blood.
Dr Kofi Boateng; Email: boatengko [at] who.int; Tel: +234 706 449 1772
Hamzat, Omotayo Tirimidhi; Email: hamzato [at] who.int; Tel: +234 803 659 1678