Malawians selling own blood for survival in Mangochi

Rocked by the current harsh economic downturn, people in the populous lake shore resort district of Mangochi are now selling their own blood for survival, it has been learnt.

Thousands of people in the district, propelled by the ongoing economic hardships in the impoverished southern African state, are selling blood to vendors in order to make ends meet, charging K7 000 (about $23) per pint.

The Ministry of Health, through spokesperson Henry Chimbali, confirmed the Mangochi incident and  said the ministry will investigate the case.

“Blood is a blooming big business in Mangochi. It has become a lucrative business because the district hospital is in calamitous need for blood to meet the emergent demand to supply blood to the sick especially pregnant women as the hospital’s blood bank is always running dry and insufficient to supply blood those in need of it,” said one vendor, Anusa Rajabu.

You buy blood or die

Rajabu said he and many other vendors know that the business is immoral but emphasized that they are only doing business and stealing from no one.

“It sounds weird but selling blood is a profitable business here because (the district) hospital has no blood supplies. At least we are serving lives because without us selling blood many more people will die while others will suffer and will not make ends meet in their daily living. So you can see it is a win-win situation for everyone,” said Rajabu.

He added:” After all people come to us to sell their own blood without being forced into it. They earn money for a living and we make profit out of it while those who need it have a chance to live again. I used to sell fish, but I am making more money in this business than being a fish monger.”

Mangochi is one of the most highly populated districts in the country and has the highest birth rates in the country.

Corroboration

Corroborating the story, one of Malawi’s leading women rights activist and human rights lawyer Seodi White who is also the executive director for Women In Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), has posted on her Facebook page announcing that she is struggling to save the life of one of a staff member, Hawa Ntila, who is admitted to Mangochi District hospital and is in dire need of blood after giving births to twins.

She wrote:” We are working hard to save Hawa’s life. This morning we deposited K7, 000 Kwacha into her account, unfortunately she is so sick that she can’t go to the bank to withdraw the money so her mother was borrowing a K1000 there, a K200 here, from other people so that she can at least get the money to buy the blood and when Hawa is feeling better she will withdraw the money and reimburse the one who lent it to her.”

White added that he got in touch with Reverend McDonald Sembereka through the social media (Facebook) who also enquired about Hawa.

“He (Sembereka) drove to Mangochi today (Tuesday) to see the situation at the hospital. He managed to get the District Health Officer (DHO) to see Hawa, so as of now we are aware that she has been seen by the doctor and that the mother is running around to get enough money for the blood,” further wrote White.

But, by Tuesday afternoon, Hawa had not yet gotten the blood according to White.

“We fear she is getting worse. WLSA Malawi would like to organise a blood donation day in Mangochi in partnership of course with the Ministry of Health and Mangochi DHO,  where we want to use the occasion to sensitise and inspire the people of Mangochi and other districts of the need to become a blood donors.”

“I will donate blood and I encourage many people to join me on this day which will be announced in due course once we talk to the health officials, so that this problem of empty blood banks should come to an end,” she said.

“I believe Hawa has been put in this situation so that many lives in Mangochi and Malawi can be saved,” added White.  “I am hopeful that it is because of the known Hawa that many unknown Hawa’s lives will be saved. I have noticed the interest to donate blood when all plans are set I will inform friends and hopefully some of you will join.

Advantage

Mangochi District and hospital officials confirmed that in deed people are selling their blood to vendors who sells it to patients because the hospital has no blood bank saying  traders have taken advantage of the situation to make quick money out of the grim state of affairs.

Nyasa Times investigations reveals that the vendors buy a pint from people at K3,000 per pint and resell  it to patients at the district hospital for more than 100 percent profit at K7,000.

Blood is supposed to be donated for free to hospitals across the country.

“It’s a choice one has to make. To buy blood and live or wait for free blood that will unlikely come and die,” said a nurse at the hospital opting for anonymity.

According the nurse the blood vendors are conducting their business just outside the hospital gates.

A senior clinician at the hospital also speaking on anonymity said that there is nothing the hospital can do about adding that the vendors are taking advantage of the situation.

“There’s nothing we can do about it. It is very sad because those that cannot afford to buy blood may not live. And to those buying blood, they can buy infected blood and because we want to save a life we will just give them regardless whether is safe to do so or not,” said the clinician.

“Maybe the only way out is to have a blood bank at the hospital so we can give free but safe blood to those in need of it,” he added.

Transfusion

Nyasa Times, however understands Malawi government has a policy for free blood in government hospitals and it is outlandish that people are selling blood in Mangochi as the government funded in the range of about €8 million in aid  through the Malawi Blood Transfusion Service the European Union.

The purpose of free safe blood transfusion provision is to help in the reduction of the incidence of HIV/Aids and other communicable diseases transmissible by blood and to guarantee the proper clinical use of blood through the establishment of a centralised and sustainable blood transfusion service that will provide a safe blood supply through all health care facilities in the country.

“We hope the government will intervene, otherwise things are out of hand,” said a guardian of a patient who in need of blood but can’t afford to buy from the money hungry vendors.

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