PATSON PHIRI, Lusaka
THE blood donation campaign reaches its climax when Zambia joins the rest of the world to commemorate World
Blood Donor Day (WBDD) today.
Authorities in the country are heading north of the country in a remote district of Kasama where the event will be commemorated while a few satellite activities will take place in other selected areas of the country.
Every year, on June 14, countries around the world celebrate WBDD, set aside to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and also to thank blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood to the community.
The theme for this year’s WBDD leans towards an open appeal to Zambians to donate blood without delay: ‘What can I do? Give blood, give now, and give often’.
“Blood is now on high demand because Government has constructed so many hospitals to match the population, which is estimated at 16 million people,” said Dia Kumwenda, manager at Zambia National Blood Transfusion (ZNBT), in an interview.
There will be two other centres in Lusaka on this day. One will be at Melisa Matero, while the second one will be mounted in Emmasdale at the National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) or National Housing Authority complex on Kasangula Road.
The two Lusaka promotional activities have been sponsored by the Japanese Tobacco International (JTI), which has its headquarters at Trinity Park on Alick Nkhata Road, near Mass Media complex.
Blood is an important resource, both for planned treatments and urgent interventions. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions to live longer and with a higher quality of life, and supports complex medical and surgical procedures.
“There are several medical procedures that require blood for them to be successful but the process of acquiring that blood is not easy. We need continuous recruitment of blood donors,” explained Mrs Kumwenda.
Blood is vital for treating the wounded during emergencies of all kinds including natural disasters, accidents and armed conflicts, among others. It also plays an essential role in maternal and perinatal care.
According to Mrs Kumwenda, a blood service that gives patients access to safe blood and blood products in sufficient quantity is a key component of an effective health system.
“In Zambia, now we have cancer treatment hospitals. We also conduct heart surgery and these procedures require a lot of blood, so we must honour blood donors because they help to save lives,” added Mrs Kumwenda.
The Government is constructing 650 health posts throughout the country. These are also being fitted with maternity wings, which require blood, and this has also exerted more pressure on the provision of blood.
This is in addition to the level-one hospitals, such as Chilenje, which are now treating cancer.
Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya is expected to grace the event in Kasama. The commemoration has been set for Kasama because the previous one was held in Kitwe, so a decision has been made to do it in a rural township.
Ensuring safe and sufficient blood supplies requires the development of a nationally co-ordinated blood transfusion service based on voluntary non-remunerated blood donations.
However, in many countries, blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety.
ZNBT is a government facility that is responsible for recruiting blood donors, educating people to donate blood and ensuring that the country has sufficient blood in case of emergencies such as natural disasters.
The centre also works to counsel blood donors and screen for infectious agents, serological blood grouping and storage of units of the donated blood.
The bank also supplies blood and blood components to hospital blood banks that have been certified to transfuse blood to patients.
The Zambia campaign for blood donation underlines the role every person should play in helping others in emergency situations by giving the valuable gift of blood.
It also focuses on the fact that it is important to give blood regularly so that the blood stock is sufficient before an emergency arises and also to prevent death for those in need of blood in hospitals and other health facilities.
For that reason, ZNBT focuses on building wider public awareness of the need for committed, year-round blood donations in order to maintain adequate supplies and achieve a national self-sufficiency of blood.
The institution conducts special camps in various parts of the country in order to maintain blood stocks but the growing demand appears to be the major threat.
ZNBT director Dr Joseph Mulenga said week-long camps have been designed where teams of officials travel to selected areas of the country to campaign for blood.