Wanted – More Blood Donors

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK WHILE most Namibians may be reluctant to do volunteer work, the Blood Transfusion Service of Namibia has expressed satisfaction with the turnout of people who donate blood. During this festive season when accidents are likely to be widespread and more blood needed, the organi-sation has appealed to its regular donors to give blood before they go on holiday to enable the centre to be fully prepared should an emergency arise. Public relations officer and marketing adviser of the Blood Transfusion Service of Namibia, Liesel Schwerdt-feger told New Era that there are about 10 000 regular blood donors in Namibia and every working day, the organisation receives at least 75 units of blood. The target for this year has been 19 500 units and judging by the rate at which blood is donated, the centre is positive about reaching its target for the year, given the commitment of people. There are 88 clinics every month all over the country where blood is donated. These include mobile clinics at schools, tertiary institutions, companies, parastatals and shopping centres. Schwerdtfeger says, “All these years, there is no time when we told the doctor there is no blood. We are at the moment producing what is needed. But in principle, we need blood so that we do not fall short.” On the contrary, the centre cannot ask for more blood than they need considering that blood cannot be kept for more than 42 days, though some of its products such as plasma can be kept frozen for longer. The demand for blood in the country is average though it can be high during some seasons. Mainly, the period between February and May is viewed as the peak period given the malaria cases in the northern parts of the country where patients are likely to be anaemic. During the festive season, more blood is needed because of the likelihood of accidents. “We have to create more awareness and appeal to those in the holiday mood especially our regular donors to donate blood before they leave,” she said. At least 20 percent of the blood donations come from school going children. Considering that schools are now closed, the organisation has to re-double its efforts to ensure that it gets the total of 1 650 units needed per month. Though the public has shown interest in donating blood than any other volunteer responsibility, the public relations officer says there are some fears that need to be considered by society. Some members have a phobia for injections while others are scared the results might reveal their HIV/AIDS status. Should people deal with the fear, this would help the organisation, as there is still a need for new donors. “We do need other people who have not been donating blood because there is no guarantee that regular donors would have ‘safe’ blood at all times,” she stated. The centre discourages people from donating blood for the purpose of knowing their HIV status. Schwerdtfeger states that this is the job of New Start centres. “We are interested in getting safe blood and save lives. If someone is not sure of their HIV status, we advise them to go to start centres and only if found negative should they come for blood donation,” she advised. Looking at the Namibian population, 44 percent of people fall in the group O blood category, while 42 percent are in group A, with the 10 percent categorised as B and 2 percent as AB. However, the centre encourages those of especially O group to donate blood because this group does not need cross matching as such. It can be transfused to any patient. The centre assures confidentiality on all the diseases tested during blood screening and has zero track records on infecting any patient with any form of disease. “Donating blood is the only free unselfish gift we can give, that can make such a huge difference in someone else’s life,” she said.