All about blood

25% to 44% of maternal mortality is due to unavailability of blood. In Nigeria, making clean safe blood available in each hospital can save countless women every year. 60% of the population will need blood at some time in their lives and if blood is not available immediately, they will be left to slowly bleed to death. Unplanned events such as accidents, fires, and terrorists attacks happen frequently and these people will need a lot of blood. 

The recent UN bomb blast best illuminates this issue. Within minutes of the attack, the National Hospital in Abuja ran out of blood and many patients lay there waiting to die. A bleeding trauma patient is said to need more than 100 units of blood. Blood usage is growing at 3 times the national population growth. There is also no substitute for human blood.  

We currently collect an estimate of 25,000 pints of blood annually. The majority of these blood units come from paid donors and family replacement. Unfortunately this method of sourcing blood has a higher risk of transfusion-transmissible infections, including HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis. The Nigerian Ministry of Health estimates that 10% of HIV/AIDS infections in the country were caused by the use of unsafe blood. That is: 1 in 10 HIV positive people in Nigeria were infected because of unsafe blood transfusion. This is simply unacceptable. 

Non-availability of ultra-sensitive test kits to screen donated blood adds to the infectious diseases burden of our country. The prevalent use of rapid test kits further exacerbates this bottleneck. The National Blood Transfusion Services estimates 2.2%, 9.3%, 4.0% prevalence of HIV, Hepatitis B and C and syphilis amongst blood donors in Nigeria. Without proper screening, these dangerous diseases will be transferred to otherwise healthy Nigerians. This is not acceptable.

The current blood donation and distribution system is poorly regulated and coordinated. Hospital based blood collection leads to a highly inefficient and fragmented system. Although the NBTS is making strides in creating a centralized system to fill the gaps; there is still a great need to ensure adequate distribution to all the areas of the country. The 6 zonal centers in Kaduna, Owerri, Ibadan, Jos, Maiduguri, Benin and the 17 distribution centers help fill the need of adequate distribution systems. But it is not enough. There needs to be a collection center in every major city of every state.