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Festive season without adequate blood stocks

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By Deogratias Mmana

The Malawi Blood Transfusion Services (MBTS) does not have adequate blood supplies in stock, at a time when blood transfusion cases usually rise due to road accidents during festive season.

The development further complicates the situation of expectant mothers, who will need blood before or after delivery.

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MBTS says it cannot meet blood requirements especially for district hospitals because its officers failed to travel to the districts to collect blood as the government has not provided funds, which come to K3.3 million per activity and runs for five days.

MBTS says it cannot satisfy the supplies of blood to all the district hospitals in the Central Region.

MBTS Centre Manager for the Central Region James Palapandu confirmed in an exclusive interview that there is low blood stocks in the region.

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“From this week, we do not have enough blood to supply to our clients. We have cancelled open days in Salima and Lilongwe because we do not have funds. Our open days run for five days from Monday to Friday where we collect blood from the districts,” Palapandu said, adding that all other planned blood collection activities in Kasungu and Dedza have also been cancelled.

“Each activity is budgeted at K3.3 million but we have not been funded; so, we cancelled the blood collection exercise. We collect at least 50 units per activity,” he added.

He further said: “At the moment we cannot meet the demand. For example, Kamuzu Central Hospital alone requires 100 units per day. And for us to satisfy their order, we need to supply at least 80 units per day.

“We may ask our colleagues in Blantyre to send us some if they have to beef up for KCH requirements since it is a big referral hospital,” Palapandu said.

Blood requirements at the district hospitals in the Central Region range from 300 units to 200 units per month.

According to Palapandu, Kasungu and Salima districts require 300 units of blood each while Nkhotakota, Dedza, Mchinji and Dowa require 250 units each per month and Ntchisi requires 200 units.

“If hospitals call for blood this week, we shall tell them that we do not have,” he said, adding that the crisis is also fueled by the school holidays since students, who usually donate blood, are away.

According to Palapandu, the national blood requirement is 120,000 units per year but MBTS manages only 60,000 units.

“So, we are operating at half capacity. There is no blood in our blood banks; that is why hospitals do ask guardians to donate blood. We are not meeting the national requirements,” he said, attributing the problem to funding gaps, Covid-19 and lack of blood donors.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said the ministry will follow up.

“We will be interested to have all services running, especially during this festive season when the demand for blood is high due to accidents. We will find out to ensure that funds are available,” he said.

Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) has expressed disappointment over the development and urged the government to immediately provide resources to MBTS so that blood is collected.

“This can have a big negative effect especially in maternal issues because when women are giving birth they need blood. And during the festive season most of the times we have road accidents that also require a lot of blood.

“We therefore request government to consider giving MBTS the needed funds as quickly as possible so that it goes out to collect blood from donors,” MHEN Executive Director George Jobe said in an interview.

During Christmas last year, the police recorded 67 road accidents with 16 deaths. The Central Region topped the list of fatalities with 11 people killed during the period.

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