Blood shortage threatens lives in Western Kenya

Monday, February 26th, 2024 07:00 | By
Blood shortage threatens lives in Western Kenya
Members of the public during a blood donation exercise in Kisumu over the weekend. PHOTO/KNA

Experts have raised alarm over severe blood shortage in Western Kenya that is impacting negatively on emergency cases and routine medical procedures.

The demand for blood, particularly in Kisumu, has reached critical levels.

Shadrack Juma, Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) Regional Blood Transfusion Centre Recruiter emphasises the urgency of the situation, stating that, “all blood types are in high demand, with O+ (positive) and A+ (positive) being most needed. The shortage is affecting health facilities in the region, leading to potential fatalities in emergencies and surgeries due to insufficient blood supply at the blood bank.”

The dire consequences extend to maternity wards, as Juma explains: “Expectant mothers and women who suffer severe bleeding during pregnancy, delivery or after childbirth face life-threatening situations because of the scarcity of blood. Children in need of transfusion are suffering, and the demand is high in Kisumu, a cosmopolitan town receiving referrals from multiple counties.”

Voluntary donors

He underscores the challenge of providing safe blood, saying, that despite collecting and testing blood, contamination by bacteria or viruses forces them to destroy a significant portion.

Juma traces the decline in voluntary donors, revealing that, the number has drastically reduced, impacting the ability to meet the demand.

Awareness campaigns and incentives, once in place, have diminished. Funding challenges, especially since the CDC’s departure, have left the county struggling to maintain sufficient bloodstock.

In an interview with KNA on Friday, he pointed out the need for community involvement, stating that institutions such as schools, universities and colleges are crucial for bridging the demand-supply gap. However, misconceptions about blood donation leading to death have affected voluntary contributions.”

The regional blood transfusion centres, established in 2001, now serve eight counties in the Lake region. Juma sheds light on operational challenges, including machine malfunctions and staff shortages, saying, “The machine must work, and qualified staff are essential. Currently, we face resource constraints, affecting our ability to reach out to potential donors.”

He said, “Blood shortage will persist until adequate funding is secured. People queue and wait, sometimes until the next day, highlighting the gravity of the issue. Lives are at stake, and immediate action is needed to address the challenges faced by the blood transfusion centres in Western Kenya.”

Blood bags

Early this month, the Ministry of Health flagged off 150,000 blood bags and essential supplies.

The supplies being distributed by the ministry through KBTTS  were destined for the six regional blood and 43 blood satellites centres in the counties.

The PS Medical Services Harry Kimtai confirmed another consignment of 150,000 units is expected in the country before the end of February.

The service targets to collect at least 500,000 units of blood annually.

Increased funding for KNBTTS has enhanced blood collection efforts from 384,000 in the Financial Year 2021/2022 to 412,868 units in 2022/2023.

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