The safety and integrity of a nation’s blood supply is fundamental to the security of its health system.
Blood is needed for a variety of services, including the treatment of severe anaemia in children and the prevention of maternal mortality of which anaemia is an indirect leading cause. Blood is needed for accident victims, cancer patients, blood disorder patients, and sickle cell patients. Constant replenishment of the blood bank is therefore crucial as blood stored up can only remain usable within 35 days.
In 1994, the National Safe Blood Service program was established by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation as a pilot program in Freetown with a tripartite agreement with Sierra Leone Red Cross Society and the German Red Cross Society on one hand and between SLRCS and MOHS on the other hand. This was to ensure the availability of safe blood nationwide based on voluntary donations.
Voluntary Service is one of the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, of which SLRCS is a member; SLRCS with a wide membership of community based volunteers has been assisting vulnerable people in normal times and during emergencies.
Through its 18,000 volunteers across the country, the Society continues to play a pivotal role in promoting safe and sustainable blood donation awareness to citizens through engagement of stakeholders and sensitizing communities about the benefits of giving out blood to those in need of it. They have also served as the longest non-remunerated blood donors nationwide.
“Every day Red Cross volunteers donate dozens of units of blood to vulnerable people across the country. When we do so, we share our lives with those in dire need. And we do it gladly and freely too: as part of our commitment to the service of humanity.” A hearty statement from the Secretary General of SLRCS Kpawuru E T Sandy, reiterating the sacrifice of SLRCS volunteers and how impactful their services to humanity has been in ensuring safe blood is available for vulnerable people in health facilities across the Nation. They continue to actively sensitize the public on safe blood donation at the various centers resulting in an increase of voluntary blood donation in the operational areas especially in Tonkolili, Kailahun, and Western Area.
With support from Global fund, WHO and MOHS, every unit of blood transfused is being screened for HIV/AIDS, syphilis, hepatitis B & C to conform to the National and Global Fund target for 100% screening for donated blood.
SLRCS continues to make tremendous efforts to guarantee availability and sustainability of bold donation nationwide. A national stakeholders’ meeting was held on August 28th, 2020 at the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society’s headquarters to build on partnership with relevant stakeholders in the health sector to promote the concept of blood donation. It was also an opportunity to rekindle the motivation for blood donation in the country. Through the support from IFRC via the Empress Shoken project, SLRCS has held various sensitizations in the three operational branches (Western Area, Tonkolili and Kailahun) on the 31st August to the 4th September, 2020. They have also enhanced the training of youth peer educators to harness their potentials by equipping them with correct information on safe blood donation and its effect on health care service. Capacitated, they can now spread the message amongst their members, thereby creating and enabling environment and increasing the awareness on the issue.
Such moves were expedient to address the issues of misconceptions and superstitions around blood donation, and also to incorporate the support of political and local leaders, celebrities, sport heroes and religious leaders to serve as ambassadors for voluntary blood donation. With every stakeholder understanding their different roles and responsibilities, it has helped in fostering strengthened collaboration and effectiveness in building network of blood donor partnership.
However, more needs to be done as equitable access to safe blood still does not exist for many of those who need it, and it needs serious commitment in terms of financial and human resources.
Blood types vary, thus health facilities are often constrained to meet the needs of the vulnerable which can result in deaths that can be avoided; hence, it is expedient that all Sierra Leoneans avail themselves in the service of humanity. Community hospitals need you and I to keep the health system up and running in those remote areas. Let’s join hands to prevent the avoidable deaths of countless mothers and babies, let’s keep sickle cell patients, cancer patients, victims of accidents and other crisis alive with the gift of blood.
Copyright; SLRCS Communications Unit