June 16, 2013

Residents Fault Transfusion service on shortage

Recently 13 people died at Soroti and Mbale regional referral hospital due to lack of blood.
Residents and medical workers in Luweero district have asked Uganda Blood Transfusion Services-UTBS to set up local blood banks to avoid shortage. According to information from Uganda Blood Transfusion Services only 170,000 out of 17 million prospective donors in the country donate blood. As a result, Uganda Blood Transfusion Services only collects 230 units of bloods out of the 300,000 units recommended by the World Health Organization. Recently 13 people died at Soroti and Mbale regional referral hospital due to lack of blood.

The crisis was blamed on the failure by the health ministry to supply blood testing kits and reagents. In its message on the World donor day that was commemorated on Friday the World Health Organization called upon all countries to obtain 100% of their supplies of blood and blood products from voluntary unpaid donors by 2020. However, residents, Red Cross Volunteers and Health Workers in Luweero district believe that UBTS won’t reach the target unless the services are decentralized.

Henry Namakola, the Chairperson Luweero Red Cross branch says that people are willing to donate blood but they lack access to UBTS to participate in the campaigns. Namakola claims that he recently he mobilized over 1000 youths in the Seventh day camp and Red Cross trainees for the blood donation campaign but he was frustrated when the UBTS team failed to show up despite several reminders. He claims that even people in the villages don’t see UBTS staff collecting blood. Namakola faults UTBS of failing to open up even a single collection center in Nakaseke, Nakasongola and Luweero districts.

Noeline Victor  Nabukenya, a resident of Luweero town council says that she has participated in the blood donation campaign about fifteen times but she does not see any benefits since most people in need of blood transfusion are charged. She also claims that UBTS stopped issuing cards to donors.

David Ntumwa, a health worker at Nakaseke Hospital says UBTS need to increase blood collection centers and gazette days when people can come voluntary to donate blood. He says that the few days UBTS runs blood donation drivers the teams arrive late and leave early. He says that as a result, this demoralizes some of the people who could have come to donate blood. But Mathias Mpuuga, the National Coordinator of for God and My Country (4GC) want the head of UBTS to resign.

Mpuuga, who is also the Masaka Municipality MP says that recently 4GC activities mobilized to donate blood to Nakasero blood bank but the issue was politicized and they were turned away. He wants parliament to investigate UTBS to explain the blood shortage because the reasons advanced for the crisis are flimsy saying the country has not had any severe cases in the past, which could have drained the blood bank. Michael Mukundane, the UBTS spokesperson says they are frustrated by poor attitude of people towards blood donation. Mukundane also says that they are also constrained by low budget and staff.

He however, says that they will meet their target before 2020 of obtaining 100% of the blood they want. He also explains that they have resumed blood donation drives in Kampala and across the country after getting testing kits so as to curb the blood shortage. Uganda has seven regional blood banks, which are found in Kitovu, Gulu,Mbarara, Arua Fort Portal, Mbale, and Nakasero. It has six blood collection centers in Hoima, Jinja, Kabale, Rukungiri and Soroti. Tarik Jasarevic, the WHO communication officer says currently only 60 countries collect 100% of their blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors. Of these 35 are high-income countries, 18 middle-income countries and 7 low-income countries.

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