Ghana falls short of voluntary blood donation target

BY: Joshua Bediako Koomson
• Dr Justina K. Ansah (4th left), Chief Executive Officer, National Blood Service, with some zonal leaders of the National Blood Service after the meeting.

The Ghana National Blood Service (NBS) achieved only 24 per cent of its target of 75 per cent voluntary unpaid blood donation last year due to the impact of COVID-19.

This was as a result of restrictions on social distancing occasioned by the pandemic which affected mass blood donation across the country.

Regular blood donations by voluntary donors from low-risk populations is a prerequisite for achieving self-sufficiency in safe blood and blood products for every country.

However, in Ghana, the national blood supply system continues to rely heavily on replacement donations by family relations and friends of patients who require blood transfusion.

Voluntary donation

At the 2020 annual performance review of the NBS in Accra yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NBS, Dr Justina K. Ansah, said the development was impacting negatively on blood stock at the bank, as it was currently unable to meet demand and putting patients who may require blood transfusion in emergency situations for survival at risk .

The meeting was attended by officials from the three zonal blood centres across the country, that is, Northern, Southern and Central Zonal Blood Centres to discuss the service’s performance in 2020.

“COVID-19 had a very profound effect on us. It affected our collections because senior high schools, which are our major source of supply, were closed down.

“Also, during the heat of the pandemic the last thing people thought about was blood donations because they were scared to even go near health facilities. We even tried to go into the communities with our mobile vans but that also couldn’t work,” Dr Ansah added.

For that reason, she said blood supply nationwide decreased to 17 per cent and a drop of more than 25 per cent in the national blood supply.

Addressing the challenge

Going forward, Dr Ansah said there was the need for extensive capacity building of NBS staff and additional staff to be  recruited to enhance the operations of the service.

In addition, the CEO of the NBS said, it had become necessary for the service to step up efforts to secure new and additional resources to expand blood service infrastructure nationwide.

She said passage of the National Blood Service Bill into law was a great move since the service’s operations would now be backed by law.

Under the law, she said, there would be a governing board set up under the Ministry of Health to put in place measures to ensure that the NBS reached its annual targets.

“I am appealing to the public to donate blood to help people who need blood. As I speak now somebody’s life depends on the national blood stock. I therefore encourage everyone to volunteer and donate blood because the blood you donate may be for a relative,” Dr Ansah said.