Botswana’s blood bank half empty

The campaign of “Give blood, Save life” appears not to resonate well with Batswana.

The National Blood Transfusion Services (NBTS) has revealed it did not meet a set target of 45000 units of blood for the year 2020.

Despite NBTS using outreach programs and platforms such as media, working closely with Pledge 25 Youth Club as well as community visits, Botswana still experiences shortage of blood donors.

In an interview National Blood Transfusion Services Head Recruitment Unit Annah Mothuti told The Telegraph: “The NBTS managed to collect 23000 units of blood in the year 2020 against the set target of 45000 units of blood that is required annually for patient care.”

“Donating blood is a voluntary and non-remunerated activity, even though the Ministry of Health and Wellness can do all interventions to inform the public on the importance of blood donation. If the public is not willing the situation of blood shortages will continue. Remember donate blood and make the world a healthier place,” she said.

Botswana’s blood beneficiaries are normally patients in hospitals.  Patients may be in need of blood for different conditions such as cancers, burns and trauma patients, surgical and medical procedures, road Traffic Victims, pre and post-maternal cases or and any other medical condition that needs blood.

Despite it being possible to incorporate blood donation to one’s daily or weekly list of personal activities, blood donation targets for the last month of the year 2020 concluded at 42 percent below the halfway mark. In December 2020 the NBTS managed to collect 1579 units of blood compared to the monthly target of 3750.

Mothuti explained that: “It is possible for one to commit to donating blood.  All they need to do is to meet the set criteria for donating blood.  This includes being healthy, aged 16-65 and weighing 50kg and above. The commit will also depend on whether one is male or female.  Males donate every 3 months (4 times a year) and females every 4 months (3 times a year).”

Mothuti revealed that: “Both men and women donate blood.  However, men donate more than women because women get pregnant (for nine months they are not encouraged to donate), they go on confinement and have to stay for a year before donating blood to allow their bodies to recover from loss of blood.  And because of the monthly menstruation, they need time to build iron levels before they can start donating.”

“We need to engage in healthy lifestyles to be able to donate blood and remember to observe and adhere to all the Covid-19 protocols. The NBTS would like to encourage the general public to donate blood at its different centres at Gaborone, Francistown, Molepolole, Mahalapye, Serowe and Maun. It should also be noted that donating blood is a very safe procedure when one meets the blood donation requirements which include taking a meal at least 4 hours before donating blood,” Mothuti said.

Blood Transfusion Services is a national programme that aims to support the recruitment and retention of blood donors. The NBTS was established by the Ministry of Health and is the sole authority responsible for the provision of safe, adequate and accessible supply of blood and blood products in Botswana. In some special cases NBTS may recommend to the Ministry of Health for authorisation of procurement of blood and blood products from preapproved sources

According to the World Health Organisation donated blood is used to save lives, blood donations are to be in all circumstances voluntary and non-remunerated, neither no coercion of any kind shall be imposed on the donor.


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