Illovo invests in state-of-the-art 1,000 pints blood bank for Lower Shire health services

Responding to a request from Malawi Blood Transfusion Services (MBTS) to enhance blood collection for Lower Shire health services, Illovo Sugar Malawi Plc, has donated a state-of-the-art blood bank with a capacity of 1,000 pints.

The official presentation was made on Wednesday at St. Montfort Hospital at Nchalo in Chikwawa but the blood bank will be centrally stationed at Ngabu Ngabu Rural Hospital to cater for both districts of the Lower Shire, Chikwawa and Nsanje.

It will increase access to blood units to two district hospitals of Nsanje and Chikwawa; St. Montfort, Trinity, Ngabu Rural and Kalemba Mission hospitals.

Katandula handing over the blood bank to Nsamala

At the presentation ceremony, Illovo Sugar Malawi Managing Director, Lekani Katandula said society at large is “living in a time where the spirit of ‘Umunthu’ is the only way we are going to overcome all the challenges being faced”.

He quoted South African spiritual leader, late Desmond Tutu as describing ‘Umunthu’ as ‘capacity of the African culture to express compassion; reciprocity; dignity; humanity and mutuality in the interests of building and maintaining communities with justice and Mutual caring’.

“This is at the very heart of our purpose as Illovo where we continue to deploy efforts aimed at creating a thriving Malawian community through the provision of affordable food and energy.

Vote of thanks from Nsamala

“However, we understand that our role is bigger than just the provision of products and services — we cannot afford to take a passive role in issues of community, health, education and other social welfare aspects.”

He added that the enablers of MW2063 agenda specifically undertakes necessary steps to address human challenges such as health — and Illovo is “mindful that due to many priories requiring funding, the government may not be in a position to provide all public services in a timely manner”.

“That is why when we received the request from the Malawi Blood Transfusion Services for the provision of a blood bank fridge, we did not hesitate but stepped in to assist.

“I cannot speak much of the medical implications regarding access to blood but I know that it is critical to quickly provide blood in many circumstances than one — blood is vital to life and having it readily available, blood transfusion saves lives.”

He took cognizance that Malawi has an annual requirement of 120,000 units of blood, which requires safe storage to ensure adequate access to all patients that may require blood transfusion — thus hoped that they have played their role “but it is not enough”.

Members of medical staff and media during the event

“It is my hope that other companies also take up this call for support to MBTS for this noble cause” and that this calls for all communities in the Lower Shire and across the country “to be donating blood when requested as we know that it can be safely stored to save lives.”

In her remarks, MBTS Chief Executive Officer, Natasha Nsamala applauded Illovo for heeding their call for assistance in “a very speedy manner”, saying the sugar company has “set a good example of what corporate social responsibility really entails and we trust that more organizations will follow suit”.

“These are the sorts of partnerships that we need if we are to realize  MW2063 that moves with resolve towards ‘An inclusively Wealthy and Self-reliant Nation”.

She highlighted that MBTS supplies blood to over 90 hospitals spread out all over the country — Central, district, rural and CHAM hospitals, “that are authorized to carry out blood transfusions”.

MBTS routinely supplies blood products such a whole blood, red cell concentrates, platelets, fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate, saying “all these products, except for whole blood, are available only through the MBTS and the whole blood and red cells are available in adult and paediatric packs”.

“MBTS supplies blood to the hospitals through its four centers located in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Balaka. Hospitals are required to collect blood from MBTS centres.

“This poses a serious challenge for hospitals that are located in remote areas making it difficult for them to access blood. A serious consequence of this limited access is that such hospitals resort to asking relatives and friends to donate blood for the patient, a system that has got many challenges and may compromise blood safety.”

She added that their endeavour to increase accessibility of blood, “MBTS has embarked on a program that is aimed at improving accessibility of blood to hospitals in remote areas”.

“This program entails placing blood bank fridges in district hospitals that have several other hospitals surrounding it and essentially breaks the distance between the remote hospitals and MBTS centers.

“MBTS has already placed a blood bank fridge at Karonga District Hospital to enable surrounding hospitals including that of Rumphi District to have access to blood units from MBTS and in addition we are about to place a blood bank fridge at Kasungu District Hospital.”

She acknowledged that over the years, Illovo Sugar Malawi has been partnering with MBTS in organizing blood donation drives and the blood bank investment for the Lower Shire pushes a step further to ensure that the people will be receiving blood when they need it.

“I believe this will motivate people of the Lower Shire even more to donate blood and save multiple lives — again this is Illovo setting a good example.”

She concurred with Katandula that other organizations and corporates need to support these and other initiatives, while urging the hospital management “to ensure that the fridge is well looked after and is serviced regularly.

“MBTS will provide the necessary support to the hospital to ensure that the fridge will be useful for a long time.”

Last month, MBTS pleaded for more blood donation in referral and district hospitals across the country, saying demand for blood products has risen recently.

In an interview with Malawi News Agency (MANA), MBTS spokesperson for the North, Mphatso Bazare, said rainy seasons largely come with more road accidents and diseases which compromise blood supply in hospitals.

“Even though right now we are able to supply 100% of the demand, we need more blood products in central hospitals because they conduct more surgeries which require blood and its related components,” Bazare told MANA.

“District hospitals are supplied with 80% of the demand since they refer patients to central hospitals, but still they also need more blood supply because a lot of accidents are occurring due to poor weather conditions in the rainy season.”

According to Bazare, children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable groups of people that are at high risk of losing their lives due to malaria and anaemia, hence the need for more blood products.

He said the demand for blood is also high during rainy season because of the conducive conditions for the bleeding of plasmodium which causes malaria and attacks the red blood cells.

“As a result, we have more cases of anaemia, especially among expectant women and children below five years of age,” he said.

Malawi Equity Health Network (MEHN) Executive Director, George Jobe told MANA that MBTS needs support from the public because major hospitals across the country are in dire need of blood products due to work overload.

He added credence in urging Malawians to donate blood to save lives of innocent children below five years of age as well as expectant women who are also in need of blood in times of delivery.”

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