Consequences of bloodsucking rumours

If unchecked, widespread rumours of bloodsucking may spread beyond the affected southern parts of the country.

In fact, they have already leapt from Mulanje, Phalombe, Chiradzulu and Nsanje to the City of Blantyre.

If entrenched, the country should brave for multi-faceted, negative consequences on the gains Malawi has on voluntary blood donation since the establishment of Malawi Blood Transfusion Service in 2003.

Voluntary blood donation began in 2004, starting with Blantyre as the first branch of MBTS. The critical tasks included establishing operational relationships with various stakeholders and collecting blood.

Relationships were created with leadership from places of work and worship, colleges and secondary schools, health surveillance assistants, traditional leaders, information officers, non-governmental organisations with grassroots structures.

The majority of our population is based in the rural areas and this is also where more blood is collected.

The rural areas are places where more efforts were being directed to entrench the importance of voluntary non-remunerated blood donation.

After almost 14 years of advocating for voluntary blood donation, the myths of bloodsucking arise and threaten to erode the gains Malawi has made in blood donation.

The country began with 5000 units of blood in 2004 and now collects 60 000 units annually, a significant feat.

The gain is obvious.

Do we want to lose such gains in times when, strategically, voluntary blood donation is being targeted at rural areas?

No!

We as a country cannot afford to do that because of mere rumours of bloodsucking.

For blood donation activity to happen, various stakeholders take part. It depends on the area or institution.

When visiting a traditional authority, we start with a meeting with the area development committees (ADC), sensitising them to voluntary blood donation. The meeting draws hospital officials from health promotion, laboratory, health surveillance assistants and ADC members headed by the traditional authority. Then sensitisation and blood collection dates are set.

These people live in the rural areas where we were supposed to inculcate the spirit of voluntary blood donation.

With the rumoured bloodsucking, the traditional authorities are now being targeted. They are living in fear. If those peddling these unsettling rumours are beating and killing chiefs, what more hospital personnel, MBTS staff, ADC members and other stakeholders? These rumours surely can take us backwards.

As for schools in rural areas, just like in towns, head teachers and patrons are in the forefront advocating for blood donation.

They even help motivate pupils to donate blood, sometimes citing cases whereby they were assisted amid blood shortage at the hospital.

How can they now encourage pupils to donate blood?

The mere mention of ‘blood donation’ leaves one being beaten or torched to death as a suspected bloodsucker.

So far, nine people have been killed by the rumour mongers.

But figures illustrate what we are about to face if this bizarre story of vampires is not checked.

In July, August and September last year, MBTS collected 6 600 units of blood in southern parts of Malawi.

By contrast, only around 4600 units of whole blood have been collected in the same period, a drop of 31 percent.

The figures are obvious.

In the same period, MBTS visited 277 sites in Southern Region this year versus 299 in 2016.

The number of sites visited is almost the same, but what has happened to the number of units of blood?

The drop is worrisome.

The ultimate losers are patients who need blood transfusion in the hospitals.

Are we going to allow these rumours erode our progress and put patients’ lives at risk?

The country cannot afford this.

Let’s work together to enhance the gains we have made in as far as voluntary blood donation is concerned.

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