At the Bamenda Regional Hospital alone, 7,000 blood transfusions are required to save the lives of 80 patients on hemodialysis and thousands of Cameroonians in need of blood transfusion annually.
To meet this huge need, the Regional Blood Bank lodged at the Bamenda Regional Hospital relies on blood donors to serve the growing demand for blood.
With the current armed conflict in the region, the demand for blood has sharply increased due to frequent cases of gunshot victims that are rushed to hospitals.
Conversely, the population of this region like the rest of Cameroon hold the myth that blood transfusion is an economy of big monetary gains. Some others cloud themselves in fear that their blood could be used for rituals.
This position has left many in need of this priceless liquid at the mercy of death, resulting in emotionally battered loved ones who sometimes succumb to life-threatening actions or in critical mental health crises in the grief of their lost loved ones.
Challenged by the current status quo, the Regional Blood Transfusion Service, RBTS which went operational in May 2023 has been on an aggressive campaign to increase the quantity of blood at the regional blood bank through voluntary donors in order to manage the overstretched demand for blood.
The goal of the institution is to mobilize voluntary blood donors to reach the WHO target of 3% of the region’s healthy population which is currently below 1% through intensive communication. As disclosed by Njoya Simon, Director of RBTS for North West, 90% of blood donors are replacement donors [family members of those who are in urgent need of blood], with just 10% registered as voluntary blood donors across the region.
“Our mandate at NBTS is to increase communication and to increase the number of outreaches to this population so that we can meet up with 3% of the population that willingly want to donate blood. Since we have been here, we have increased mobilization, and we have trained staff on better transfusion safety,” Njoya said.
Within their one-month existence, the team has successfully mobilized over 500 potential blood donors with 200 pints of blood donated to the regional blood bank during this period via campaigns and public awareness raising, disclosed Njoya.
Njoya and his team have recognized voluntary blood donors at an event organized at the Bamenda Regional Hospital to mark World Blood Donor Day on June 14 with the theme: “Give blood, give plasma, share life, share often”. During this event which was open to the public and the media, sensitization was amplified on the need to donate blood as a humanitarian act to save lives.
While the blood demand gap in the region remains a huge one, Njoya and his team are multiplying efforts and diversifying their strategies to mobilize the region to freely donate blood to the Regional Blood Bank which is hub to 13 blood units in the region which are always in acute shortage of this “magical pill.”
With the deepening armed conflict, Dr Nsame Denise, Director of Bamenda Regional Hospital decries that the demand for blood keeps growing. “When they bring somebody here who has had a gunshot in the chest, in the abdomen, the first thing is you may see somebody getting 5-6 units of blood at a go. Where does it come from if somebody has not donated to save a life? Dr Nsame lamented. Regrettably, the number of donors is drying up.
Other categories of people in need of blood transfusion annually are those who undergo surgery, pregnant women with complications, cancer patients, and children with severe anaemia.
The national demand for blood annually is 400,000 units and the country only collects 1047 bags a year, leaving a significant need gap which requires rigorous field actions to address the situation.
The Regional Transfusion Service is thus exploring options including partnerships with public and private institutions, cultural groups, students’ associations, and public campaign tours to preach the message of voluntary blood donation.