By Musa Kamara

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in partnership with the World Health Organsatio has called for more blood donation services to save lives.

The appeal was made on Monday, 14th June 2021 at an event hosted at the Rokupa Government Hospital to mark this year’s World Blood Donor Day, observed on the theme: “Give Blood And Keep The World Beating”.

The event attracted representatives from National Safe Blood Services (NSBS), UNOPS, Concern Worldwide, Registered Voluntary Blood Donors, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), among others.

Speaking to participants at the occasion, WHO Child Health Lead, Dr James Bunn said they launched the programme at the hospital to save lives, adding that the blood bank unit of the hospital has been providing services particularly to mothers and children.

He mentioned that World Blood Donor Day is celebrated to show gratitude to unpaid blood donors. He cited Desmond Lewis for his valid contributions donating blood over the years.

Dr Bunn explained that in Sierra Leone, there has been 25% shortfall of blood in the blood banks in the final half of 2020 and the demand for blood is at steady increase at it has ever been.

He encouraged young folks to be donating blood to save lives, narrating that, in some countries, those over ages 16, with consent from their parents, can donate blood.

Picking on the statement from the WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus marking this year’s World Blood Donor Day, Dr Bunn underscored the importance of the World Blood Donor Day – aimed at raising awareness on the need for safe blood and blood products.

Borrowing from the words of Dr. Tedros, he disclosed that there are 7 million patients who require blood services in Africa every year, adding also that blood is needed to help mothers during childbirth, people with serious injuries, those undergoing surgery, and children with malaria.

He advised that blood can only be stored for a limited amount of time and therefore a steady supply of blood is always needed. He mentioned, for instance, although 70,000 units of blood is needed in Sierra Leone, but only half of such amount is normally received.

He called on government, blood donor associations, and non-governmental organisations to have in place a “system and infrastructure needed to increase the collection of blood from voluntary donors”.

Dr Matilda King- Medical Superintendent, Rokupa Government Hospital recalled that the lack of a blood bank at the hospital was one of the biggest challenges. She thanked Concern Worldwide who provided the hospital with equipment and other supports needed for a blood bank.

Programme Coordinator, Concern Worldwide, Moris Monson in a brief remark, described the establishment of the blood bank as a journey, imploring staff and management for safe blood provision at the blood bank.

He informed that Concern Worldwide has been working tightly with other health sector organisations for over four years in a project called “Saving Lives Sierra Leone” to ensure that there is reduction in maternal deaths. 

Desmond Lewis, who is a blood donor and the longest serving blood donor in the country since 1986 with a record for donating blood for the 111th, and now 112thtime marking this year’s celebration, also encouraged all to donate blood.

He cautioned the public and those that have not donated not to heed fake myths behind blood donation.

Nick Gardner, Country Manager – United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), also called on all to donate blood and save lives. A similar statement was also made by an RSLAF representative.