The ugly side of blood shortage in Kenya amid COVID-19 pandemic

Blood donation
Donated blood in one of the blood donation centres in Nairobi in the past. [Photo: Denvex]

The shortage of blood in Kenyan blood banks and hospitals has hit a new high at a time when the country is staring at the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.

Donors have for months stayed away from blood donation drives over the fear of contracting coronavirus.

Most of the Kenyan blood donors are students in colleges who have been at home for the last six months.

School closure due to COVID-19 pandemic adds to the crisis which existed even before the pandemic struck in March but was not as dire as it is now.

According to Daily Nation, the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) collected 164,468 units of blood between July 2019 and June 2020.

This was a drop from 172,041 units collected between July 2018 and June 2019.

This has affected service delivery across many hospitals in the country, public and privately-owned.

Dr Peter Mwamba Maturi, a haematologist at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) said that patients who require blood transfusion entirely depend on relatives.

“If there’s a big accident right now in Nairobi, there’s no blood unless we borrow, and people are dying,” he stated.

“We used to get about 1,000 donors before the pandemic, but now we get 10 a day at most who specifically donate to their relatives,” said added Dr Mwamba.

With the dusk to dawn curfew, Dr Mwamba said it has become extremely difficult for some relatives donating blood to travel from upcountry to Nairobi.

Data from Wanadamu, a digital blood donation platform shows that 80% of the donors are in school (colleges, universities and secondary schools) while another 20% is from citizens some of who lost their jobs in the major towns and relocated to rural areas.

Wanadamu was founded by 30-year-old Evans Murio.

Those challenged by the crisis are cancer patients who need fresh blood because they need platelets.

Others are women in maternity and accident victims.

KNBTS boss Dr Nduku Kilonzo is yet to respond with a statement regarding this crisis.

A few months ago, there were reports of blood from Kenya being sold to Somalia, a revelation that caused a storm in the country.