While donating blood is always optional for the donor, for the recipient there usually is nothing optional about a necessary transfusion.
Donating blood embodies the notion of “seeds of compassion” in that it comprises a small act that has the power to grow into something greater and more powerful over time. It takes sacrifice and empathy for one to donate blood. Elizabeth Maginge, 34, recounts a bitter experience where she witnessed a woman losing life in a labour ward over blood shortage in 2013.
The mother bled to death after giving birth. The incident took place during the birth of her second born child five years ago and the experience haunted her for a long time. She decided to do something to save mothers from dying.
Her first step was to donate blood herself every time the nation held a blood donation campaign. Her aim was to save mothers’ lives. Eliza started donating blood immediately after she weaned her child and has since been doing so. This year, she decided to take her initiative to the next level.
She embarked sensitizing the community in early November to raise awareness on the relevance of blood donation. The Mbeya resident founded a non-governmental organisation, WECARE, in 2015 through which she serves the purpose. The organisation supports the government in ensuring availability of blood banks at health facilities.
National statistics show that 80 per cent of maternal deaths are caused by blood shortage. The country faces acute blood shortage in the national blood bank due to poor collection. National Blood Transfusion Service’s target still falls short of the 450,000 litres of blood the country needs annually, according to 2015 statistics.
Her sensitization campaigns kicked off with a group of 200 bodaboda riders in Mbeya who donated over 104 units of blood,.
“Before organising the event I started with a community awareness campaign on the relevance of safe blood donation,” says Eliza appreciating the boda boda riders’ kind-hearted spirit.
Eliza says a good number of people were ignorant about the necessity of donating blood. Eliza says she sampled a good number of boda boda operators, picked from 25 wards in Mbeya Region. The sensitization campaign was done daily until she was satisfied that they were ready for blood donation. She targeted boda boda riders because of the big number of youth involved in the business.
She itemises groups in dire need of blood as expectant mothers, road accident victims and people with sickle cell.
“After this year’s event we plan to create awareness to other community members starting from ward officers, ward executive officers, who will also educate other community members at the grassroot level,” she says. Eliza says sensitisation at street level because society members are still ignorant about the relevance of donating blood.
She advises that death could be avoidable if there was awareness and support from experts in the health sector, especially the safe blood unit.
“People should not wait to buy blood nor should they talk about blood shortage at health facilities in case the responsible units ensure there are well established blood banks, she notes.”
Eliza calls on the government and NGOs to encourage people who are ready to donate blood, especially by continuing to create awareness and using friendly language when calling upon society to donate blood.
She says of institutions encourage workers to donate blood, there will be no blood shortage anymore. t would be better if the government establishes different awareness programmes among community members, on the necessity of donating blood, including private institutions so as to make blood shortage a thing of the past.
Elizabeth who is a mother of two children completed her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Dar es Salaam in 2009. She did her master’s degree in public health at the Muhimbili University College of Health and Allied Science in 2015.