The Federal Government has pledged to scale up its annual blood collection rate and sustain ongoing efforts to expand the reach of its services through the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) across the country.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire made the pledge at a news conference to commemorate the World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) on Sunday in Abuja.
WBDD is celebrated every June 14, to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.
According to the minister, in 2019, about 24,483 units of blood were collected and screened from volunteer blood donors through the 17 centres of NBTS network.” 19,676 units of blood were issued to various hospitals nationwide for transfusion purposes.
“The National Blood Transfusion service wishes to increase its scope of work, by scaling up its annual blood collection rate and sustaining ongoing efforts to expand the reach of its services.
“I am pleased to announce that the legislative process of the Bill for the establishment of a National Blood Service Commission is at an advanced stage and awaiting a public hearing at the National Assembly.
“My Ministry is currently considering proposals for a major investment, from public and private sectors, to upgrade the capacity of the National Blood Transfusion Service to enable it to achieve its potential.
“To achieve its potential to produce blood components and plasma-derived medicinal products at a commercial scale, that meets international best standards and to enter the world market.
“This will ensure optimal utilisation of each unit of whole blood collected,’’ the minister said.
According to him, our population of over 200 million, Nigeria’s estimated blood need is about two million units per year.
“Unfortunately, much less than that is currently collected, leaving unmet needs that lead to avoidable deaths, morbidities, and ill-health. You can help change this.
“In line with its mandate, Nigeria’s NBTS strives to provide adequate supplies of safe blood, screened with modern fully-automated enzyme linked immune-sorbent assay (ELISA) technology.’’
Ehanire said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply of safe blood was at risk because regular blood donation drives have had to be postponed or deferred.
He said regulations for self-isolation, lockdown, and fear of infection had hindered the usual blood donors from accessing blood donation centres.
“Transport and trade restrictions have also led to disruptions of global supply chains, putting countries at risk of shortages of critical supplies and equipment used for blood donation, processing, testing and transfusion, to patients in need of blood.’’
According to him, the need for blood is universal because safe blood is a critical and indispensable healthcare requirement nowadays, both for treatment and urgent interventions.
“It plays an essential, life-saving role in maternal and child care, especially bleeding after delivery, in severe anemia, sickle cell disease, accidents and emergency situations after natural or industrial disasters.
“Blood transfusion is also key at most complex surgical operations.’’
The minister, however, said access to safe blood was still the privilege of not many people in the world.
“Most low-and middle-income countries struggle to make safe blood available to their citizens because the quantity of blood donation is insufficient and the standardised equipment for testing blood is expensive and scarce.
“Globally, 42 percent of blood collection and use is in high-income countries, which constitute just 16 percent of global population.
“Blood donation is therefore needed all over the world to assure individuals and communities of access to safe and quality-assured blood and blood products whenever the need arises,’’ the minister said.
In addition, Ehanire called on people of goodwill to become life-savers by volunteering to join the people who regularly donate blood to make safe blood available to everyone in need of it.
“Your involvement and support will help to ensure greater impact for World Blood Donor Day, increase the worldwide realisation that giving blood is an act of solidarity and service to mankind.
“Your support is an act of service to mankind and that services providing safe blood and blood products are an essential element of respectable health care systems,’’ he said.