The National Blood Service (NBS), Ghana, recorded an increase in the units of blood collected across the country in 2021 after a year of decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 156,453 collected in 2020, the units of blood collected increased to 173,938 in 2021.
While voluntary unpaid blood donations increased in 2021, that of family replacement blood donations decreased within the same year.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NBS, Dr Justina K. Ansah, who disclosed this at the 2021 annual performance review of the service, said blood collection index (BCI) per 1,000 population also increased from 5.2 in 2020 to 5.7 in 2021.
“In 2019, we recorded 33 per cent of units of blood collected, however, in 2020 when COVID-19 broke out, the percentage dropped to 17, which meant we did not collect enough blood.
“This was understandable because at that time mass gatherings were limited, there were no schools, churches and religious activities and these added to the fact that there was anxiety, we couldn’t get the number of people to donate blood,” she explained.
Furthermore, she said, a total of 4,377 units of blood products were supplied via drones to 78 facilities across the country last year while 4,787 units of blood products were distributed from blood centres through zipline.
Giving a breakdown of the 2021 operational performance, she said over 30,000 units of blood were processed into blood components, with 600 voluntary mobile blood collection sessions, and more than 2,000 educational talks on blood donations with 100 per cent of samples tested for all mandatory transfusion transmissible infections.
More blood needed
Throwing light on the increase for last year, Dr Ansah, said even though it was encouraging, more blood was needed because what the country had was still not self-sufficient.
“The population is increasing and there is more demand for blood. The demand is high but what is coming in is not that much. We all need to put our hands to the plough.
“If everybody can do something, we can have enough blood,” she explained, adding that blood donation was a community and civic responsibility.
Voluntary blood donors
Dr Ansah spoke of the strategy they had put in place to convert family replacement donors to become voluntary blood donors explaining that the strategy included talking to such persons to donate blood as volunteers.
Speaking about the advantages of the voluntary blood donor system, she explained that when the country had enough people opting to donate blood voluntarily, there would be enough blood to meet emergencies adding that, the practice whereby people donate blood because a family member or friend needed it was not the best practice.
Challenges of the NBS
Dr Ansah mentioned some of the challenges the NBS faced in 2021 to include inadequate number of people coming forward as voluntary unpaid blood donors; ineffective coordination of blood services nationwide; absence of a board following the passage of the National Blood Service Act 2020 and inadequate vehicles, essential equipment and logistics at the zonal blood councils.
The Head of Donor Recruitment, Southern Zone of the service, David Dodzi Ahiadzro, said even though the family replacement donor system posed a challenge, it was an avenue to convert people to become voluntary unpaid donors.
Minister of Health
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Health, the Director of Nursing and Midwifery at the Ministry of Health, Dr Barnabas Kwame Yeboah, urged the National Blood Service to live up to its the mandate to ensure an effective and coordinated national approach to the provision of safe, adequate and efficacious blood product making it timely, accessible and affordable to all patients requiring blood transfusion therapy.