By Patrick Bongomin
Uganda Blood Transfusion Services in its recent report cited that Uganda can only collect around 250,000 units of blood yet it requires around 350,000 units of blood annually.
The question is, where do the other 100,000 cancer patients, sicklers, accident victims, anemic patients, etc. who very much need blood get it from?
We are losing lives we could easily save if only we could have more people donating or people donating more times.
Understanding the source(s) of this problem is very important for us before trying to solve it. Is it that UBTS don’t have the required capacity because of inadequate staffing, funding, insufficient sensitization and mobilization of the masses or it’s a case of Ugandans not being human enough and unpatriotic?
What is a better form of patriotism other than saving the lives of fellow nationals by giving out 450mls of your blood four and three times a year for a man and woman respectively keeping all factors constant.
According to UBTS, the biggest number of blood donors are students and consequently the number of blood units collected significantly goes down during school term holidays.
Thumbs up to our young ones saving lives of the sick who need blood.
The next question is how many Ugandans are eligible blood donors, how many are actually donating and how many are donating regularly as required?
Permit me to say I am a blood donor and very proud about it. I strongly believe that solving this problem starts with you.
To solve this problem we can do a number of things including, starting to donate if you are eligible, mobilizing peers and parents also reaching out to the children on the need to save lives through blood donation.
Let’s talk about leading by example. I once challenged a group of five energetic and healthy looking colleagues who were talking so much about patriotism how patriotic they are by asking them how many Ugandans lives they had saved through blood donation.
Apparently none had ever donated or even contemplated donation. I told them they can’t claim to be patriotic unless they are human enough. Three out of the five are now proud and regular blood donors.
Government should increase its support to UBTS to enhance social sensitization and mobilization of the masses, increase personnel capacity, buy enough blood collection bags, screening test kits, storage and distribution capacities. It would be useless for us to donate and then our blood is wasted.
Institutions both private and public need to adopt blood donation drives as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
Recently, Total Uganda did that across its branches in Kampala giving the opportunity to customers, the general public and it staff to donate.
A significant number of blood units were collected. If only it could be more frequent and more institutions could embrace that, some part of the problem would be solved.
Thanks Total Uganda and maybe I need to start fueling from you only as a way of thanking you!
Another opportunity would also be gracing sporting and social events. Imagine if a blood donation drive is taken to the blankets and wines or if it had been taken to the recently concluded Uganda Cup Finals at the Betway Green Light Stadium in Arua where so many people attended and even the nearby Onduparaka Primary School had to be closed.
It would cater for the folks who are very busy during the weekdays.
Political and local leaders right from the grassroots up to the top need to play their roles mostly as social mobilizers but also as donors if they are eligible.
May be we should start carrying out blood donation activities at Kyankwanzi as caucus meetings and retreats are taking place or go to Najjanankumbi as the executives are for their meeting.
It would also be shown on TV and just maybe more people would be compelled to go and donate. This would really give them a better capacity to mobilize since it would be leading by example.
The point is that leaders are in constant touch with the community and so they usually have that opportunity to pass on the message but as someone said, you should practice what you preach.
So what if Uganda can’t collect the required number of blood units? We all have to play our roles in individual and institutional capacities as far as blood donation, social mobilization, planning and others are concerned.
I have pledged to continue donating until I am told I can’t anymore. Probably it will hurt but that would be the road as a blood donor. I would still continue spreading the good news, all of us should. It is a problem we can solve.
Patrick Bongomin is a health worker.