PATSON PHIRI, Lusaka
BESSIE Sichande one day woke up to sad news. Her grand-mother had just been pronounced dead at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) due to blood shortage.
Although she had been diagnosed with cancer, she bled too much, which could have been the most likely cause of death, doctors said.
A week before the death of her grandmother, Mrs Sichande’s family members were told to mobilise themselves and donate blood for her survival, but it was inadequate until she succumbed to death.
That was Mrs Sichande’s turning point and she decided to convert into a regular blood donor, describing the trend where people are losing lives due to blood shortage as unfair.
“People should visit UTH and see how people are struggling due to blood shortage. Zambians must start donating blood to save lives,” she said in an interview.
Mrs Sichande is employed as brand executive for Airtel Zambia, which organised a blood donating campaign and encouraged employees to contribute blood to the blood bank at UTH. She was among the first employees, emotionally driven by the death of her grandmother, to donate her blood.
“It feels good to save life and blood is very important. Zambians should take an interest in donating their blood to people who need it,” she says.
This is the first step that Airtel is taking among the many corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities the company engages in.
Yuyo Kambikambi is company’s head of corporate communications and government relations and she explains:
“Airtel Networks Zambia Plc is conducting its first staff blood drive in the New Year (2017) as part of its corporate social responsibility,”
The project, dubbed ‘Give Blood, Give Life’ campaign, offers a new hope for a country where a good number of citizens struggle with shortfalls of blood.
The event was conducted at the Airtel Premises in collaboration with the Zambia National Blood Transfusion Services (ZNBTS).
Mrs Kambikambi said hospitals and clinics at most times run out of blood, yet blood is a key factor for saving mothers in childbirth as well as people in other emergencies.
Mrs Kambikambi added: “Airtel takes the role as a CSR leader in the country very seriously, and we are committed to ensure the development, health and well-being of the communities in which we operate.
“We want to be more active than reactive hence the partnership with the Blood Bank for members of staff to donate blood, no matter how little, at least every quarter,” she said.
The project is expected to be up-scaled to other hospitals in the country.
“In order to make the health projects more relevant to our business, we have continued to render support to not just the largest hospital in the country, the University Teaching Hospital, but also many other health centres across the country, and the blood donation events are under the employee volunteer programmes that we run as Airtel,” she adds.
The blood donation drive saw the participation from 20 Airtel members of staff who volunteered to save lives.
Airtel Interconnect manager Mwilu Sinalugwe, who had previously heard of people dying due to blood shortage, was motivated by the counsel from nurses who conducted the exercise.
Mr Sinalugwe was informed that he had too much blood in his body and needed to become a regular blood donor and therefore took advantage of the Airtel platform to donate.
He is one person who had always feared the aspect of being pricked with an injection to remove blood, but not anymore.
UTH donor services manager Dia Kumwenda says she is pleased that Airtel has been supportive in saving lives by encouraging their staff to donate blood.
“We would like to encourage other companies to emulate Airtel and come forward to donate blood. Our target this year is to collect more than 150,000 units of blood to help those in need.
“The 20 units that have been donated by Airtel staff will indeed go a very long way in assisting, more so the children in the various health centres,” Mrs. Kumwenda said.
The system of donating blood helps to save many lives, while many others die when the blood bank has inadequate blood stocks.
Charity Mushanga, a regular blood donor found at the Blood Bank, remembers how she almost lost her life until members of her family donated to save her life.
She can no longer stay away from activities aimed at sharing blood with those in need because she knows what it means to have inadequate blood in the body.
ZBTS director Joseph Mulenga said the campaign to promote blood sharing will continue and the organisation is expected to undertake a tour of selected areas of the country soon to respond to blood needs.