27 years of blood donating, still enjoying it

Blood is life, but the sight of it brings shivers to most people. Donating it becomes even harder, especially for communities in Ntchisi.

Ntchisi District Hospital’s blood bank goes dry every time despite the raising of alarm for the liquid’s shortage. No one comes forth willingly to donate.

Jesse Mwansambo, 42, whose life was saved through blood transfusion, says the attitude by people not to donate blood is dangerous as lives that could be saved in hospitals are lost.

Donating blood

Donating blood

“After suffering from malaria, I needed blood. My father donated the first pint, then my mother and brother but, I needed more. I saw my life slip away while comatose. I could hear voices of people speaking, but couldn’t open my eyes to see them. I had no energy to separate my own eyelids. Thanks to a hospital attendant; a total stranger who donated the deficit and saved my life,” said Mwansambo.

That was in 1987 and since then, Mwansambo has been donating blood.

“That’s how I became a donor and I have donated blood 106 times. I will keep doing it for as long as I’m fit,” she said proudly.

Ntchisi hospital has a monthly requirement of 300 pints of blood, but only manages to acquire 35 pints, with 10 pints collected weekly. Hospital spokesperson, Bwanaloli Mwamlima, said the shortage has adverse effects as lives are lost.

He said children with severe anaemia caused by malaria and malnutrition, women with complicated pregnancies and accident victims are hardest hit.

Mwamlima also said a lot of major operations are postponed due to shortage of blood and patients who could ably be assisted at the hospital are referred to other hospitals.

“We lose lives because of this problem. A significant number of deaths, especially in maternity and pediatric wards, could be avoided if the hospital had adequate supply of blood all the time. One in every two maternal deaths that occur at this hospital are due to lack of blood supply,” said Mwamlima

Following this acute shortage of blood, the hospital relies on Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) for most of its blood supply. It has a weekly schedule of collecting blood from MBTS every Wednesdays.

However, there are situations where the hospital fails to get blood from MBTS when it also runs short.

“In such circumstances, we ask patients’ guardians or relatives to donate the blood,” he said.

But why do people shun blood donation to the extent of hospitals running dry? Random interviews found that people have different reasons.

Kennedy Malija from Vusojere in Ntchisi said he could not donate blood because there were no messages from authorities to convince him to think of donating blood.

“There is no way one can wake up and travel over 40 km just to donate blood. Messages should be developed targeting rural areas. We should be made to understand the importance of such a gesture,” said Malija.

House wife Jannet Nkhokwe received blood from her aunt after a miscarriage. While realising the importance of blood donations, she has never donated.

Nkhokwe says she can donate, but doesn’t know how as she has little information.

“What I know is that blood can only be donated when your relative needs it. I don’t know of any arrangement to donate voluntarily.

“If I knew, I could have donated and probably encouraged others to do the same,” said Nkhokwe.

Mwalima agrees.

“We haven’t engaged communities enough to motivate potential blood donors. We could conduct campaigns across the district to improve the situation,” he said.

Senior Chief Malenga of Ntchisi urged all stakeholders to take the messages of importance of blood donation to rural areas so that people develop the culture of donating blood.

MBTS executive director Natasha Msamala said her organisation will be conducting research on why people shun blood donation in the next three months.

She too agrees that people have not yet received information on blood donation especially in rural areas.

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