Tomorrow, June 14, is the World Blood Donor Day. Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS) will use the day to thank those who donate blood to help save lives and improve the health of others.
â€œSpecial thanks go to the army and the police force, who are the leading blood donorsâ€, says Paul Kaggwa, UBTSâ€™ public relations officer.
â€œOur leading donor is John Baptist Egesa, a retired army officer, who has donated blood 105 times. He now works with the Red Cross.â€
Dr. Deborah Ssenabulya of the Sickle Cell Clinic in Mulago Hospital, says blood cannot be manufactured anywhere in the world; it can only be donated by another healthy human being. It is illegal to buy or sell blood.
â€œConditions that may require blood transfusion include severe anaemia, too much bleeding (haemorrhage), diseases like malaria (especially in children), infections like HIV/AIDS, congenital cases like the sickle cell disease, in cases of surgery and malnutrition, especially lack of iron that is found mainly in animal products,â€she said.
Is the blood safe?
â€œAlmost always, yes,â€ Ssenabulya says. â€œThe main risk from a transfusion is being given blood of the wrong blood group. Catching an infection is a smaller risk. Tests are carried out on all donated blood for infectious diseases like HIV 1 and 2, hepatitis A and C and syphilis. Any donated blood found positive for any of those diseases is discarded.â€
Kaggwa says on average, they destroy 900 units of blood out of the 10,000 units they collect.
â€œMost of this is infected with Hepatitis B than HIV. About 1% of the blood is infected with HIV.â€
How to donate blood
Kaggwa says men need to be between 17 and 60 years to donate blood and can donate up to four times a year. Females should be between 17 and 50 and can give blood three or less times a year.
â€œDonors should weigh 45kg and above; not be on any medication and have no history of any chronic disease,â€ Kaggwa explained.
He said blood donation is a safe procedure, which takes about 10 minutes. Donors can approach Blood Bank offices wherever they are. The blood bank does not pay for blood given.
â€œAt the end of the day, you have the satisfaction that you have saved a life, known your blood group and insured your life because a blood donor is given first priority in case he or she is in need of blood,â€ Kaggwa says.
This yearâ€™s theme, Safe Blood for Safe Motherhood, highlights the life-saving role of safe blood transfusion in maternal and perinatal care. Worldwide, there are more than 500,000 maternal deaths each year, 99% of them in developing countries. About 34% of women in Africa die due to severe loss of blood during delivery. Patients and accident victims need blood to live.
Dr Peter Kataaha, the director of UBTS, says improved access to safe blood transfusion can prevent many deaths and improve the health of millions of women and their newborns.
â€œThis is a vital component of global efforts to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals,â€ he said.
Whereas Uganda has postponed the dayâ€™s celebrations due to lack of funds, other countries and the national blood transfusion services will join the national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, voluntary blood donor organisations, community organisations, schools and colleges to make longer-term campaigns to increase the number of voluntary, regular blood donors.
Blood transfusion is safe