The government on Wednesday evening awarded the world’s top blood donor, Arjun Prasad Mainali and two other Kenyan champion male and female blood donors, Kennedy Sanya and Aisha Dafalla with recognition certificates for their support in improving access to safe blood and blood products.
The three were hailed for setting a good example to Kenyans by helping demystify the myths about blood donation and demonstrating that it is possible to close the gap of one million units of blood as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Speaking during the award ceremony at her office, Health Cabinet Secretary (CS), Sicily Kariuki said as the country inches closer to Universal Healthcare coverage, the need for blood will go up and added if only 2 percent of the population donates blood it will be possible to close the gap .
“We need at least 1.5 to 2 percent of Kenya’s population to donate blood every year. Science shows that on average a healthy man can safely donate four times a year and while a woman can do so thrice a year, hence it is possible to meet the blood unit requirements if we pull together,” Kariuki said.
Kariuki reiterated that the country presently needs an approximate one million units of blood annually but regretted that last year the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) only collected 164,275 units of blood, which she said is significantly below the annual target set by World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
The CS said the deficit reaffirms the need to implement a sustainable blood system and added the Ministry will launch the Kenyan Monthly Blood Donation Day in order to increase the number of voluntary donors.
Though there are other massive blood drives being organized by the blood service, as a country, the CS noted, Kenya needs to establish a pool of regular voluntary non-remunerated blood donors, a move she said will ensure the blood shortage is a thing of the past.
To further ensure the institutionalization of interventions, Kariuki said the Ministry has incorporated priority interventions in the Blood Bill being drafted for parliamentary approval.
“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.
She said under the Big Four Agenda, the Government will, upon completion of the UHC Pilot exercise and roll out to the rest of the 43 counties, ensure sustainability in the availability of blood and blood products.
“We are working jointly with County Governments to increase the blood stock and this will involve the set-up of additional satellites from the current 26 to 40 satellite sites,” Kariuki said.
Kariuki assured the nation that the country is well equipped and the government has strategies in place to store the blood collected from the ongoing blood drive.
Arjun Mainalla the world’s leading donor with a record of having donated blood 172 times said his journey started in 1987 and that he was inspired to start donating blood by a person in the United States who had also donated blood many times hence saving many lives.
“I have tried to mobilize people to donate blood and from my campaigns, I have managed to inspire more than 15,000 blood donors globally with blood donation messages and crusades,” said Mainalla.
Kennedy Sanya the nation’s leading donor has donated 91 times to date while Aisha Dafalla, the leading female donor, who says despite her parents discouraging her not to donate, has so far donated 64 times.
The KNBTS is currently serving over 500 transfusing hospitals nationally with blood and blood components. It is also working with stakeholders to address blood shortage and ensure sustainable supply of safe and adequate blood for transfusion.
A robust, sustainable blood system is a crucial component of every health care system. The availability of safe blood and blood products is a prerequisite for various health care services that include surgeries, treatment of cancer and other acute and chronic medical conditions, trauma care, organ transplantation, and childbirth; all these being lifesaving procedures that require blood.
By Charles Kirundi/ Wangari Ndirangu