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Botswana blood bank running dry

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Botswana Blood National Transfusion Services (BBNTS) blood bank is currently running dry and unable to meet the blood shortage demand in the country. Currently, there are less people coming through to donate blood so that millions of lives can be saved.

“A sufficient, regular supply of safe blood is needed in all health care facilities to meet the urgent need for patients facing trauma and other lifesaving procedures, such as blood transfusions — which saves millions of lives each year worldwide, Botswana included,” said Anna Mothuti, Head of National Health Laboratory confirming to this publication.

Even though they have not yet received any formal reports from hospitals about lives lost due to blood shortage, Mothuti highlighted that one pint of blood saves up to 3 lives, so with the 23000 units of blood collected in 2020 it has saved an estimated 69 000 lives. The blood bank requires 45,000 units of blood each year, however, they only managed to achieve 23,400 units in the previous year, way less than their target.

Although both men and women donate blood, men donate more than women. “This is because women get pregnant for 9 months, it does not encourage them to donate, and they go on confinement and have to stay for a year before donating blood to allow their bodies to recover from loss of blood. And because of the monthly menstruation, they need time to build iron levels before they can start donating,” Mothuti hinted.

“We donate more blood in urban areas because they have a higher population because of rural-urban migration, especially the youth in search of greener pastures.” To donate blood, one should be healthy, 16-65 years of age, 50kg weight, should have taken a meal before donating blood and also take plenty of fluids. There is a deferral guidelines and criteria in place used to determine blood donor eligibility.

Those with tattoos can donate if the tattoo was done 6 months before, and it defers donors for 6 months for new tattoos. When quizzed on their measures for outreach, so that people can be encouraged to donate, Mothuti said: “The NBTS uses different platforms to reach out to the public to inform them about blood donation these are media platforms e.g. radio, television, Facebook, pamphlets, leaflets, print media (different newspapers), workshops, and community blood drives. NBTS visit different organizations such as churches, companies, ministries, social clubs, and shopping malls advocate for blood donation and possible blood collection.”

“NBTS also works closely with the Pledge 25 club who are young donors who donate blood regularly. They engage in activities such as Youth Donor Days, soccer tournaments, and recruit more donors through their social media pages. Donating blood is a voluntary and non-remunerated activity, even though the MOHW can do all interventions to inform the public on the importance of blood donation, if the public is not willing the situation of blood shortages will continue. Remember, donate blood and make the world a healthier place.”

Mothuti has further advised that people need to engage in healthy lifestyles to donate blood. “The NBTS would like to encourage the public to donate blood at its different centres, Gaborone, Francistown, Molepolole, Mahalapye, Serowe and Maun. Donating blood is a very safe procedure when one meets the blood donation requirements, which include taking a meal at least 4 hours before donating blood. The Ministry encourages the public to make blood donation a lifestyle. This will assist to maintain a healthy blood bank from which individuals needing blood can benefit.”

The Forbes 30 under 30 class of 2020 Botswana Finalists were moved by the nationwide cry of low blood reservoirs in Botswana and at the Blood Transfusion Services. These Forbes finalists are Nijel Amos, Newman Ramatokwane, Tony Mautsu and Thobo Khathola. They came up with an initiative called Forbes Blood Drive to encourage the entire nation to donate blood to save lives.

“Personally, I have lost very close family members to road accidents where the availability of blood could have saved their lives. We hear of deaths on operation beds where patients die due to the unavailability of blood across our country Botswana. This continues to worry me and my Forbes brothers, because these death could easily be prevented. We are hoping to inspire other people in our country to donate blood or support the course,” Khathola said.

“Our blood backs are close to empty, and just last week a young girl in Jwaneng posted that she was in a dire need of blood type O. She has been hospitalized in the hospital for more than 14 days because of this need. Our hope is through our blood drive, we will raise enough blood and be able to help more people like her, Mautsu hopeful.

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