Malawi faces 50% blood deficit

The healthcare system in Malawi is facing a 50 percent blood deficit, Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) project coordinator Nancy Kamwaza said on Saturday.

Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of a blood donation exercise organised by MBTS in conjunction with Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) at Naotcha Primary School in Blantyre, Kamwaza said last year, the organisation only collected half of the required 120 000 units of blood.

A nurse records details on a blood bag during the blood donation exercise

“Malawi requires 120 000 units of blood in a year, but we only collect about 60 000 units of blood, representing 50 percent of the requirement,” she said.

Kamwaza attributed the lack of blood donors to fear of knowing one’s HIV status, among other factors.

“We depend on blood donors from secondary schools, but right now it is a problem because students leave secondary school before attaining the [minimum blood donor] age of 16.

Some people are afraid of knowing their HIV status, but let me assure them that we do not test for HIV at the point of donating blood and we do not disclose the status to the donor except on request,” she said.

To increase blood stocks, MBTS and MRCS entered into a two-year partnership from 2017 to mobilise blood donors.

“After noting the gap, MRCS came in to assist with blood donor mobilisation to enable us increase blood collection,” said Kamwaza.

On his part, Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) medical officer Dr. Mwenecho Chiweta said low blood stocks in the country’s blood banks affect health delivery.

He said: “Blood is a necessity for patients suffering from diseases like malaria mostly among women and children. Women also need blood during delivery because they lose blood.”

The blood donation exercise was part of the World Blood Donors Day commemorations. The day falls on June 14.

During the event, people whose lives were saved by blood transfusion, gave testimonies on the importance of adequately stocked blood banks.

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