The challenges of blood donation in Nigeria are not so different from the various challenges that affect the efficiency of all other systems in Nigeria. The fact that Nigeria is still a developing country is a huge one because it means that the growth of the Nation is still being tied down by the slow economic growth, corruption, and the likes.
We can easily imagine the challenges that could impede the process of blood donation in Nigeria. The mother of them all being the lack of finance to procure basic facilities needed to keep the blood bank up and running.
So what then is the purpose of this post?
The purpose of this post is not just to bring the litany of needs suffered by this nation to your consciousness, but to also explore some creative ideas for blood donation effectiveness in the country. These solutions could be put into action using the available resources in the country to make blood donation fast, efficient, reliable, comfortable, and healthy for both the donors and the recipients.
The implementation of these creative ideas for blood donation only requires the activities and revitalization of key organizations that have been pioneering voluntary blood donation in the country. And this post is targeted at such organizations and their members. We rarely see movements to encourage and promote blood donation in Nigerian society except during special occasions like the open heart surgeries, National blood donors day and weeks which only comes once a year.
It is understandable that many voluntary organizations may be limited by funds and support by the government, and even support by the Nigerian people. But something can be put in place to make blood donation an enviable movement.
What are the challenges of blood donation in Nigeria?
1. Availability of Blood Banks
Blood banks in Nigeria are not much in number to match the needs of voluntary blood donation in Nigeria. The most functional blood banks in the country are found mainly in University Teaching Hospitals. And the sad news is that not every state in the country has a University Teaching Hospital. Even for those that have, they are either one or two, meaning that the coverage does not reach most rural communities in the state.
Also, some of the available blood banks do not run on a 24 hour basis. Issues that contribute to this include; power failure and low staffing.
2. Poor Blood Bank Maintenance
The poor maintenance stems from the poor power supply and maintenance culture. This results in the poor utilization of autologous blood units which in most situations need to be stored in the blood banks for a longer time depending on when the donor needs it.
3. Challenges from Commercial Blood Donors
Commercial blood donors are those persons who prefer to donate blood to get paid. This class of people is prone to indulging in certain risky behaviors to help them meet the blood donation requirements.
Some of the challenges posed by Commercial blood donors include;
A. Blood Doping
Doping the act of manipulating your hemoglobin concentration to appear higher than normal even when you have donated more blood than you can that time. Blood doping involves the use of erythropoietin; a glycoprotein hormone that stimulates the production of red cells. This act is also popular among sportsmen and women who are trying to boost their performance.
This is not a good practice, as it result in the over-working of one’s blood producing cells in the bone marrow predisposing you to many health risks.
B. Increased Rate of Transfusion Transmissible Infections
Transfusion transmissible Infections (TTIs) are those diseases that a patient (blood recipient) gets from receiving blood units from an infected donor.
Certain commercial donors, even when they know they have these diseases still go for blood donation to get the money. And if by any chance, the infection gets undetected after screening, it means trouble for the person who will receive the blood.
Also, Read; What are the criteria for donating blood?
4. Limitation from Unavailability of Donor Screening Units
There are lots of expensive tests that need to be carried out on blood donors before their blood can be used on a patient. Such tests include Viral screening and Syphilis. So affording to carry out these tests is an issue for blood many blood banks.
5. Poor Database Management for Previous Donors
One of the duties of blood banks is to keep records of blood type charts of various blood donors who use the facility. But most times, you observe that the records get too large to manage because they are basically written on paper. So even if regular donors visit such facilities, they will still need to go through the protocols of blood passing all the blood donation requirements. This is time-wasting for both the blood donor and the blood bank.
6. Lack of incentives given to non-paid donors:
Usually, it is a routine that after blood donation, the non-paid donors are given some incentives to encourage them. In some places, it could be free meals, snacks, Customized T-shirts, hand bands, etc. These are often seen as added benefits of blood donation. All these are not to be regarded as payments or rewards for blood donation, but are used in encouraging blood donors and could make them feel among.
But many blood donation centers in Nigeria no longer do this. This could be the reason why a lot of people are no more motivated to participate in blood donation.
7. The Myths Associated with Blood Donation
A lot of Nigerians have different kinds of false beliefs and misconceptions about blood donation. These myths have been holding a lot of well-meaning Nigerians down from engaging in voluntary blood donation. I have dedicated a full post titled blood donation myths and facts. You will discover the various myths associated with blood donation and their respective counterarguments. You can go ahead and read them after this one.
Some Creative Solutions to the Challenges of Blood Donation
Not much can be done by organizations and blood donation centers that are at the forefront of encouraging blood donation with regards to finance because it is mainly a function of the government and philanthropists. But a great difference could be made by doing adopting some approaches which will definitely make the process of blood donation more efficient in the various blood banks and blood donation centers. They are;
1. Making Blood Donation Booking Possible for Donors
The American Association of the Red Cross and Red Crescent have already started this movement a long time ago. Blood donation booking simply means that anyone can actually choose a date when they want to donate blood at the blood bank. This will help the blood bank to prepare ahead to meet the blood donors. This strategy will go a long way to solve the problem of availability for the blood bank as it will have enough time to prepare ahead for the donors.
So assuming a blood bank does not the capacity to screen donors on a particular day, the donation could be postponed to a better date when all the kits needed are complete. This will save the time of the donors and the blood bank staff as well. And will reduce the number of sensitized blood units due to improper storage.
You will also find the history of blood donation interesting
2. Discouraging Commercial Blood Donation
To curtail the risks posed by commercial blood donors to recipients, the best solution will be to reduce the number of commercial donors by either placing a limit to it monthly or not patronizing them at all.
On the other hand, this energy could be channeled to the non-paid donors who are more trust-worthy. And ultimately will help make the process of blood donation seamless and less stressful.
3. Use of Digital Database in Charting Donors’ Blood Types
Medical records in many Nigerian hospitals have been taking a good dimension in recent times as Digital Medical records are gradually replacing the old file records made on paper.
Places like the University of Nigeria Teaching hospital now use digital databases for recording patient’s histories (The General Out-patient department, Radiology Unit mainly). This concept could also be used for blood type charts of blood donors so that when they come next for blood donation in a particular facility, the process will be way faster.
The idea is to open a digital folder for every new blood donor and record their genotype, blood group, and other screening results. The screening results are to be updated whenever they visit again. This could also help save cost and time spent on repeating blood tests on the same person every 3 months.
4. Encouraging Voluntary Blood Donors
Incentives must not necessarily be money or gift items, but something as little as making the donors feel among is just enough. Simple things like; birthday messages, season’s greetings, new month greetings, and gentle reminders that they are due for their next blood donation are a great place to start from.
Then more things like customized T-shirts, bangles, certificates, and awards could be added.
In a certain blood donation center, there is this culture of honoring blood donors based on their experience in blood donation. For instance, someone who is just donating for the first time is called a Newbie, on your Second donation, you receive the title of Intern, then Veteran, Chief, High Chief, and the rest for subsequent donations. And for all these titles, there are either certificates, awards, or items customized for you. These may lack no materialistic value, but will definitely make blood donors feel among and there will be an upsurge in the number of persons who would be interested in voluntary blood donation.
5. Creating More Blood Donation Movements
Nigeria is a country with very emotional citizens. For an idea to be widely accepted, it must be given an emotion that should definitely be positive. Creating more forums and occasions where voluntary blood donors are honored with or without gift items is a bonus point for increasing the number of Nigerian youths who will be interested in voluntary blood donation.
Such movements could easily be started by influencers on social channels like twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and the rest.
Like every other challenge faced by the Nigerian people, we should by now understand that there is nothing we can achieve by relying on the government. So the best way to tackle the challenges of blood donation in Nigeria is to take up the responsibilities ourselves as citizens of Nigeria.
Creating more voluntary organizations for this course is not really going to solve much of the problems. But the individual efforts from well-meaning individuals will go a long way to make people’s blood donation experience a seamless one.
So the question is; “What have you done to encourage Voluntary blood donation in Nigeria?”