By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibia is one of the few countries in Africa that screens 100 percent of donated blood to avoid transfusion of transmissible infections (TTI), revealed World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative Custodia Mandlhate. While the country joined the rest of the world yesterday in celebrating World Donor Day, Mandlhate said that according to the findings of a survey carried out by her organisation recently, out of the 124 countries worldwide sampled for the study Namibia is one of the 49 that achieves 100 percent testing of unpaid voluntary blood donation. According to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services Dr Kalumbi Shangula, the blood transfusion service of Namibia serves this country through the collection, processing and testing of all donated blood to ensure adequate and safe supplies to all parts of the country. He added: “The very low prevalence of transfusion transmissible infection markers in the donated blood is evident of the sterling work that they are doing.” Safe blood transfusion is one of the key medical interventions in the health care delivery system the world over. This year, the day was celebrated under the theme “Commitment to Universal Access to Safe Blood”. Fittingly so, Shangula urged the Namibia Blood Transfusion Service to continue screening all donated blood for transfusion transmissible infections and exercise good laboratory practices in all areas of blood grouping, compatibility testing, component preparation, storage and transportation of blood. Statistics show that the country collects at least 20 000 units of blood per year for use in hospitals. At least 20 percent of the blood donations come from school-going children. There are 45 donor schools countrywide. Though the sector manages to collect these units of blood, Shangula stated that shortage of blood is regularly reported in some regions especially during the malaria and festive seasons. He added that the need for blood is universal yet access is not. On the contrary, Public Relations Officer and Marketing Adviser of the Blood Transfusion Service of Namibia, Liesel Schwerdt-feger, confirmed that through the years, the centre has never fallen short of blood to supply to hospitals. Though that is the case, the centre in principle should never operate without blood in store, taking into consideration the time factor for keeping blood. In Namibia, like any other country, the majority of patients that need blood transfusion are usually mothers who develop complications during childbirth and patients suffering anaemia due to different conditions such as malaria, road traffic accidents, surgical procedures and others. “Blood is given to save the life …children with malaria-induced anaemia, women with obstetric complications, accident/trauma victims, people with sickle cell diseases, haemophilia and HIV/AIDS related anaemia are among the major recipients of transfusion of blood and blood products,” the P.S. said. In an effort to standardise the use of blood by medical practitioners given their different backgrounds, the ministry together with its relevant partners yesterday launched the National Guidelines for the Appropriate Clinical Use of Blood and Blood Products. These guidelines, Shangula said, are to provide national standards for the appropriate clinical use of blood, blood products and transfusion alternatives in order to reduce unnecessary transfusion, which may expose patients to risks. He went on to say “the guidelines further define the requirements of the appropriate use of blood and its products, the appropriate use of simple alternatives of transfusion, including intravenous replacement fluids, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.” The launch of these guidelines will follow implementation by both the public and private sectors involved in delivery of health care. A training programme will also be conducted in order to train all health workers involved in transfusion practices, Shangula said.
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