• To bridge the gap in the required number of blood units, the ministry will ensure sustainability is met through innovation
Heath CS Sicily Kariuki has assured that blood transfusion services in Kenya will not be affected by the withdrawal of funding by the major donor from the end of this month.
Her position comes amid reports that the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) turned down Kariuki’s request for a six-month extension.
Reports indicate that the 18 national testing laboratories in the country have run out of automated screening reagent.
Only two of the six national centres, Nairobi and Nakuru, are currently screening blood. With the manual process, the centres can only process 270 pints per day, compared with 800 when in automated form.
Kariuki said blood transfusion services will continue as “normal”, despite Pepfar's move to stop providing Sh2 billion annual funding from September 2019.
Pepfar is the cornerstone of US global health assistance, which supports HIV/Aids treatment, testing and counselling for millions of people worldwide.
“As you are all aware, with the Big Four agenda, upon completion of the UHC Pilot exercise, the government will scale-up the programme to the rest of the 43 counties,” Kariuki said.
“It is anticipated, similar to the pilot exercise, there will be an increase in the number of patients accessing health facilities. It, therefore, becomes paramount to ensure sustainability in the availability of blood and blood products in anticipation of the increased patient visits to facilities.”
To bridge the gap in the required number of blood units, the ministry will ensure sustainability is met through innovation, leveraging on technology and ensuring sufficient surge capacity to cope with emergencies.
According to experts, the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) was established in 2000. This was following the terrorist bomb attack on the US Embassy building in downtown Nairobi in 1998, where more than 200 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured.
In the last 15 years, Pepfar has been providing the bulk of funding to support Kenya’s blood collection and testing for HIV, HBV, HCV and syphilis to the tune of approximately $72.5 million (Sh7.25 billion) for the country’s blood safety programme.
Kenya has received about Sh700 billion from Pepfar since it was founded 15 years ago, and the country remains the programme's largest beneficiary.
The funding has also been channelled to support infrastructure, including buildings, vehicles and equipment, policy and guidelines, training, blood collection, blood testing and processing, blood establishment equipment computer software (Becs), as well as appropriate blood utilisation.
KNBTS director Fridah Govedi said nearly all their operations were donor-funded.
"Currently, the department is 100 per cent donor-driven, but we are working to stop this reliance on donors," Govedi said.
One day the taps from the donors will run dry and we will be left to sort out our own issuesMatungulu MP Stephen Mule
Kariuki reiterated that KNBTS has also stepped up capacity to guarantee blood safety from the donor recruitment stage to blood administration at the transfusing facilities.
“I would like to thank the US government for the support it has been extending to KNBTS over the years. The agency is working with stakeholders to address blood shortage and ensure a sustainable supply of safe and adequate blood for transfusion,” the CS said.
The ministry will also implement a robust donor education and motivation programme, in recognition of the vital role played by donors in ensuring the country's blood needs are met and to enhance efficient and productive donor engagement.
The programme will involve stakeholder collaborations with key partners, including the media.
To ensure sustainability in bloodstock, and increase the number of voluntary donors to meet the blood requirements in Kenya, the ministry will further implement routine blood drives through increased public awareness on the importance of blood donation.
“An assessment on the feasibility of utilising financial incentives to ensure adequate supply of blood is currently underway," she assured.
This assessment will provide policy option towards the implementation of financial incentives and reimbursement mechanisms that will factor in costs attributable to blood in health services.
The ministry had drafted the Blood Bill to make blood donations sustainable.
“The bill will provide a robust legislative and regulatory framework that aims to strengthen the current blood transfusion governance structures that will facilitate steady availability of the country’s blood needs,” Kariuki said.
Meanwhile, Matungulu MP Stephen Mule has called on the government to consider domestic funding for health projects rather than relying on donor funds.
“One day the taps from the donors will run dry and we will be left to sort out our own issues,” he said.
The legislator sits in the National Assembly Health Committee and doubles up as the chair of the African Parliamentary TB Caucus.