The National Blood Service Ghana exists to mobilise blood from voluntary blood donors, process that blood into safe and usable components which are then distributed to hospital blood banks around the country.
Since blood cannot be manufactured in a laboratory or a factory, this means that without a sufficient number of men and women willingly and selflessly donating blood so that others might live, our country will grapple with the reality of unnecessary deaths.
It is for this reason that on the occasion of the World Blood Donor Day, which falls on June 14 every year, the NBSG salutes and celebrates the thousands of people who step up to give a unit of blood for the benefit of others.
The day is celebrated to create awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank voluntary blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.
The focus this year, seeks to draw attention to the roles voluntary blood donation play in encouraging people to care for one another and promote community cohesion.
There are those who throng mass blood donation drives, championed by partner media houses to roll up their sleeves; others band together as work colleagues, student unions,church congregations, communities, old students associations, keep-fit clubs, and so on, and invite NBSG staff to collect life-saving blood units; still there are the individuals who walk into a blood centre or a hospital, offering to give a bit of their blood to anyone who might need it.
There are many children, women and men who are alive today, and mainly because somebody they have never met reached out to them through a blood donation.
But while we thank voluntary blood donors, we are reminded also that in many parts of the country, people seeking healthcare are faced with empty blood bank fridges.
One of the main reasons for this is that not nearly enough people who could make a difference, actually do come forward to give blood regularly and voluntarily.
In 2015, only 30 per cent of blood units around Ghana came from voluntary donors.
Most blood came through family and friends (“replacement donors”) who gave blood only because someone known to them required a transfusion.
It is the goal of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that by the year 2020, all countries practising blood transfusion therapy must obtain all their blood supplies from voluntary blood donors.
Currently, only 62 countries in the world, are close to the 100 per cent supply from voluntary sources. Forty (40) countries today, are still dependent on family replacement donors and commercial donors.
In this country, a person can give blood safely every four months, or three times a year. Many of us have not had a close relative or colleague who needed a blood transfusion, certainly not more than once a year.
Therefore if those of us healthy enough to donate blood, wait for a relative or friend to require blood before we go to give blood, then our society is confronted with the unhappy situation of blood shortages being the norm, rather than the exception.
Anyone can have an emergency. No one counts on being in a bad traffic accident, or their child suddenly drained of blood by a vicious bout of malaria, or the anticipation of childbirth horribly turned into a battle to control severe bleeding.
But if blood is ready and waiting when that emergency transfusion is needed, especially with little time to summon relatives, how many more needless deaths would be saved!
Last year, on June 3, Ghana witnessed an unprecedented tragedy which claimed 152 lives, with several others injured.
Thanks to the Hon. Minister of Health Mr. Alex Segbefia, who rallied Ghanaians in numbers to donate blood for those who had survived fire and flood, and were still fighting for their lives.
Indeed, the theme for this year’s World Blood Donor Day, “Blood Connects Us All”, is especially significant for us in Ghana, because while reflecting on that unspeakable tragedy, we are also thankful that some did survive, because people were touched enough to connect with their fellow citizens through the simple, safe act of a blood donation.
Unfortunately there are individuals and families all over the country who have to deal with tragedies on a smaller scale — but no less horrific — all the time. One of the main reasons why the number of women dying from complications of pregnancy, or the number of children dying before the fifth birthday remains unacceptably high in Ghana, is not enough blood being available when it was needed.
Every single day, an estimated 1,260 units of blood are required for transfusion in hospitals around Ghana. So there is always someone who needs blood.
And therefore there is a constant need for you and Ito donate blood, and to give blood regularly.
Blood connects us all because one never knows whose life their blood will save. It could be anyone! Let us join hands to help ourselves.
The National Blood Service Ghana looks forward to the day when any person who needs a blood transfusion in Ghana can expect to be readily helped, without being burdened to ‘go and find a relative’, because of a shortage.
That day hastens near with the rising number of voluntary donors, as the Service continues to raise awareness of the need and increase avenues for blood donation.
Therefore, on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day, June 14, 2016, we at the National Blood Service, Ghana congratulate all voluntary blood donors for your generosity and commitment to make blood available to save lives.
“Let Blood Connect Us All; and Let’s Share Life as we give Blood.
If you would like to get in touch with the Blood Service, please call, text or whatsapp our hotline 0277 50 10 10 or 0244561782
By Stephen Addai-Baah