The blood bank at Malawiâ€™s Mangochi District Hospital has dried up, forcing some patients to â€œbuyâ€ blood from some residents who are charging K7 000 (about $23) per pint.
An anaemic patient, Hawa Ntila, who recently gave birth to twins at Makanjira in the district and has been admitted to the district hospital, on Sunday parted with K7 000 and on Tuesday, she had to cough a similar amount to a blood donor.
The Ministry of Health confirmed the Mangochi incident, saying it received a report and felt concerned about what happened. The ministry said it will investigate the case.
Ntila works for Women and Law in Southern Africa (Wlsa) Research and Educational Trust as a community-based facilitator.
Wilsa Malawi national coordinator Seodi White, a gender rights activist, expressed outrage at the development.
She said: â€œShe [Ntila] paid K7 000 the day before yesterday [on Sunday]. But it was not enough. She was told that she needs another pint of blood [but she] had run out of money. We were surprised by this and I enquired as to how this is happening.â€
Bicycle-taxi operators stand outside Mangochi District Hospital gate and offer to donate blood for K7 000 a pint.
White also said presidential adviser on civil society affairs the Reverend McDonald Sembereka read the issue on her Facebook wall. Sembereka confirmed travelling to Mangochi on Tuesday.
White said she is outraged with the selling of blood, arguing that what worsens the situation is that hospital officials know about the malpractice.
She said Wlsa Malawi plans to organise a blood donation day in Mangochi in partnership with the Ministry of Health.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali confirmed the Mangochi case.
Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS), which manages blood banks for most hospitals across the country, said in some cases patients can get blood from any other person, including those not screened by MBTS.
The MBTS public relations office said: â€œThis happens because not many people are donating blood at the MBTS, resulting in blood shortages at some times of the year. As a result, guardians are asked by hospitals to bring relatives/friends to give blood to sick relatives.â€
It is estimated that Malawi requires at least 80 000 units of whole blood per annum and as of July 2011â€“June 2012 financial year, MBTS only managed to collect 52 000 units, representing 65 percent of the national requirement.