Malawi has recorded deaths and patients’ risks because of blood shortage in the hospitals.
This has been prominent in the media as a matter of sounding SOS.
But significant progress has also been registered in helping people in need of blood transfusions recover from ailments.
Thousands of lives have been saved.
Despite this success, the country continues to lose lives because of blood shortage.
In 2007, a study by Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) established that the country requires almost 80 000 units of whole blood a year.
Then, we were collecting around 29 000 units-almost 36 percent of the national requirement.
The country had a gap of 51 000 units and a population estimated at around 10 million.
The country continued to sing this figure as a national blood requirement until 2015 although the population kept increasing.
In 2016, MBTS conducted another study which established that the country needs 120 000 units of blood to meet the needs of the population which has risen to over 17 million.
But MBTS is collecting 60 000 units of blood, just half of the national blood needs.
The gap is very obvious.
Whole blood is the blood collected in blood bags (pints) before separation into components.
Once separated, the components are put in separate blood bags and used to treat specific ailments facing respective patients.
MBTS separates whole blood into plasma, platelets, red cell suspension, cryoprecipitate, among others, just to treat conditions of various patients other than administering whole blood, which could be a waste.
Due to widespread unwillingness to donate blood voluntarily, how are the chronic gaps closed at all?
Government-owned hospitals and those run by Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham) ask guardians to bring relatives and friends to donate blood for the patients.
In 2007, for example, government and Cham collected around 40 000 units of whole blood to close the gap.
In 2015, district and Cham hospitals collected 31 000 units in trying to cover the shortfall.
The gaps still persist.
While we are facing chronic blood shortage, distribution of blood considers all authorised hospitals in the country, be it government, private or Cham-run.
For example, current distribution to hospitals is in such a way that government hospitals get 81 percent, Cham hospitals 15 percent and private facilities four percent.
This is in sharp contrast of the perception held generally that blood is distributed disproportionately. Logically, government hospitals get a lion’s share because they are everywhere and that’s where most of our citizens get health help.
When it comes to distributing blood according to the type of hospital, central hospitals get 50 percent of the processed blood, district and Cham hospitals 46 percent and private four percent.
Further distribution by location, hospitals in the cities get 55 percent, district 29 percent and rural areas 16 percent.
So what can we do now to close the gaps?
Give blood. Give now. Give often.
With current rumours about the so-called blood suckers in some districts, we may lose the gains we have made over the years.
We have the gaps, the requirements are increasing and we need to hold hands to enhance the gains we have made.
It is the responsibility of every one of us to ensure safe and adequate blood is available in the hospitals at all times.
It is also our responsibility to ensure patients’ lives are not put at risk.
Let us hold hands and make blood adequacy happen in the country. n