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Giving blood to keep the world beating

World Blood Donor Day Celebrated
World Blood Donor Day is celebrated annually on the 14th of June to raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and the critical contribution selfless, unpaid donors make to national systems.

The 2021 theme is, “ Give Blood and keep the world beating”. Annually, the National Blood Transfusion Services together with the Ministry of Health and Wellness commemorates this day by “hosting an event where donors come together to be appreciated for their selflessness of donating blood to be used in health facilities.” However, due to COVID-19 protocols, this year a full month blood donation campaign will instead be run from the 1st to the 30th of June.”

Voice Woman spoke to Chief Medical Scientific Officer – NBTS Technical Head, Koobiditse Radisowa.

Q. What is the objective of this year’s campaign?

As a globally celebrated event, the World Health Organization’s objectives for this year’s World Blood Donor day are;
•    To thank voluntary, blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.
•    To raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to affordable and timely supplies of safe and quality-assured blood and blood products.
•    To promote the community values of blood donation in enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion.
•    To encourage youth to embrace the humanitarian call to donate blood and inspire others to do the same.
•Lastly, to celebrate the potential of youth as partners in promoting health.
•With this year’s theme being “Give blood and keep the world beating”, the main aim of this campaign is to recruit more blood donors to help and save more people in need of blood in hospitals. Every day we lose people due to different conditions like car accidents, fire, surgeries, child birth just to name a few. One unit of donated blood can save up to three lives, therefore by giving blood, one is saving lives thus sustaining life on earth.

Q. How is it different from previous years?

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Previously, WBDD was commemorated by having a donor week whereby entertainment and bleeding campaigns would be held in various locations preceding the main commemorative gathering on the 14th of June. During the ongoing pandemic, gatherings are restricted, therefore we are hosting a month long campaign at our various centers together with the use of different media platforms; Television, radio and print media, to appreciate donors and encourage the public to commit to blood donation. Details of our campaign activities can be found on our Facebook page (Botswana National Blood Transfusion Services).

Q. Has the pandemic slowed down donations?

The COVID-19 pandemic initially posed challenges, which affected the blood donations as the covid guidelines limited blood donor recruitment through movement restrictions and limitations of social gatherings. Also, a significant number of potential blood donors and regular blood donors have been on quarantine and isolations while others have recently received the covid-19 vaccine and therefore unable to donate blood for some time. These challenges were resolved through aggressive media campaigns such as the NBTS Facebook page (Botswana National Blood Transfusion Services), our email address for correspondences (bloodservices@gov.bw) to name but a few measures currently sustainable during the pandemic.

Q. Are donors rewarded for their efforts, if yes, how?

National Blood Transfusion Services has adopted the principle of non-remunerated blood donation and therefore donors’ efforts are appreciated through events such as World Blood Donor Day, regular appreciative SMSes and calls. Occasionally, a donor may be appreciated with blood donor memorabilia such as a trophy on the 55th donation or certificates of appreciation.

Occasionally, individuals post requests for blood on behalf of relatives in desperate need of blood. One may wonder why government isn’t actively helping disseminate this particular information instead of individual families.

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The MOH has noted with concern the rising trend of social media pleas for blood, health facilities work hand in hand with National Blood Transfusion in ensuring adequate and timely supply of safe blood to various hospitals both government and private. It is through their mandate that necessary measures are implemented if there is urgent need of blood at any location across the country eg the NBTS emergency plan (which partly entails identifying and calling regular donors from a particular blood group).

Take us through the process of donation.
The process of blood donation starts with public education and awareness whereby the public is educated about the importance of blood donation. This is followed by the screening stage, where the donor is screened for their blood pressure, weight, hemoglobin level to ensure that they are eligible to donate blood. After screening, the donor goes into counseling, where a nurse goes through with them their general health status with regards to them having a safe donation and giving a safe unit of blood. The next stage is Phlebetomy or bleeding where the donor’s blood is collected in a clean environment while maintaining the donor’s comfort. The final stage is post donation, where after donating blood, the donor is advised on the following; minimizing strenuous activities for 24 hours like exercising, taking plenty of fluids, then the donor is offered refreshments and advised on the next donation date- females four months from that date and males three months from that date.

Q. Can individuals donate for themselves, is there such an arrangement?

Autologous donation is offered at Princess Marina Hospital. Patients scheduled for effective surgery are assessed for blood donation eligibility and if they qualify they then donate blood for themselves, which will be transfused to them.

Q. Blood type O is said to be universal, yet the vast majority of the population is unaware of their blood type. Shouldn’t government ensure more people know their blood type so as to encourage them to donate?

The MOH through its publicity department embarks on a number of campaigns through various media such as TV (Tsa Botsogo programme), radio adverts and billboards in its continued effort to sensitise the nation on the importance of blood donation.
Our blood donation activities and campaigns are not specific to a particular blood group as all the blood groups are needed. Even though blood group O is universal, it may not be sufficient for the patient population hence the need for all the blood groups. However, if there is an emergency need of a particular blood group, we tap for that particular blood group from our donor database to supply the needed blood group.

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