LESS 20% IN STORAGE

Health ministry kicks off blood drive to remedy acute shortage

Inability to find and store sufficient blood and blood products blamed on 'donation only' policy.

In Summary

• The country currently has 170,000 blood units

• Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service collected a total of 164,275 units of blood last year

World highest blood donor Arjun Prasad Mainali from Nepal donates blood outside the National Archives yesterday. He has donated 172 times worldwide
World highest blood donor Arjun Prasad Mainali from Nepal donates blood outside the National Archives yesterday. He has donated 172 times worldwide
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA
World highest blood donor Arjun Prasad Mainali from Nepal outside the National Archives yesterday. He has donated 172 times worldwide
World highest blood donor Arjun Prasad Mainali from Nepal outside the National Archives yesterday. He has donated 172 times worldwide
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Kenya is facing an acute shortage of transfusion blood.

The country currently has 170,000 blood units against the annual one million units recommended by WHO, Health ministry data shows.  

Last year the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service collected 164,275 units of blood from donors, which is significantly below the annual target.

The inability to find and store sufficient blood and blood products has been blamed on the country’s policy of procuring blood through donations only with no material incentives to induce supply.

Revising this policy to allow for compensation of some sort in some cases would stimulate supply and boost KNBTS blood reservoir.

In several occasions, including the recent Dusit terror attack, Kenyans come out in numbers to donate blood in moments of large-scale disasters. 

Despite Kenya being home to a large population of healthy, youthful people, most patients are made to cough out a lot of money for blood transfusion when sick.

While launching a blood drive in Nairobi yesterday, health CS Sicily Kariuki outlined various measures the ministry has put in place to bridge the blood supply gap.

Among the strategies will be monthly blood donation drives in collaboration with the county governments, the media and communities.

In addition, a bill to locate matters of blood donation, blood safety and transfusion at the centre of UHC is under consultation and public participation processes.

“We also have before us a strategy that will ensure sustained advocacy, partnering with counties in a more direct and purposeful way.

“We will be increasing the satellites where we are holding blood from the current 26 to 40 within this financial year,” the CS said.

Sicily noted that a robust, sustainable blood collection and storage system is a crucial component of every healthcare system.

The availability of safe blood and blood products is a prerequisite for various health care services.

These include surgeries, treatments for cancer and other acute and chronic medical conditions, trauma care, organ transplantation, and childbirth: all lifesaving procedures. 

"Whereas this much blood was collected, every 10 minutes about seven Kenyans need blood and are at the risk of dying from lack of blood,” Sicily said. 

The WHO recommends that Kenya needs at least two per cent of the population to donate blood every year to have blood sufficiency.

Currently KNBTS is serving over 500 transfusing hospitals nationally with blood and blood components.

These facilities include public, private and faith-based health providers.

The KNBTS is working with stakeholders to address blood shortage and ensure a sustainable supply of safe and adequate blood for transfusion.  

KNBTS has also stepped up capacity to guarantee blood safety from the donor recruitment stage to blood administration at the transfusing facilities.

The drive that kicked off yesterday at the National Archives in Nairobi is expected to go on until Friday.

(edited by O. Owino)