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Blood shortage hits Lesotho

Health authorities worried . . .

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — Lesotho has been hit by a serious blood shortage, the Sunday Express can reveal.
Lesotho’s National Blood Bank              at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital is currently running on low because of the dwindling number of donors and the lack of a strong programme to lure donors.
The blood bank services all the clinics and hospitals in the country but there is rarely a time when it has enough to meet the demand.
Blood transfusion is needed for patients that would have lost too much blood due to accidents and for mothers giving birth.
While there might be no need for transfusion during birth it is always important for the hospital to have at least some pints of blood in the bank in cases of emergency.
Almost every department in the hospital requires blood.
HIV patients normally require blood transfusion.
Blood is also critical in the paediatrics (children’s section) especially for malnourished children or those that are HIV-positive.
Those that lose blood due to gun shots, knife wounds and accidents might also require transfusion.
Blood transfusion is also important during surgical operations.
The manager of the National Blood Bank, ‘Maleqhoa Nyopa, confirmed that there is a shortage of blood in Lesotho.
She said sometimes they “totally run out of blood because people are reluctant to become donors”.
“We only manage to collect blood from schools. Per week we need about 20 pints of the O blood type but we rarely get even five,” Nyopa told the Sunday Express yesterday.
“We have to supply all the hospitals in Lesotho but normally we cannot meet the demand because we don’t have enough in the bank.”
Nyopa said she could not give further details because she was not at her office.
The Sunday Express understands that the last blood drive — search for donors — was done on Thursday last week at a school in Leribe but it did not yield much blood.
Health authorities are also worried about the shortage.
Speaking at an occasion to honour blood donors at Victoria Hotel on Friday, Health and Social Welfare Minister Mphu Ramatlapeng acknowledged the serious scarcity of blood in Lesotho.
Ramatlapeng said the Lesotho Blood Transfusion Service (LBTS) only managed to collect 30 percent of blood needed in a year.
“The LBTS collects about 3 000 blood units per year, which falls far below the country’s blood requirements which is 9 000 units per year,” Ramatlapeng said.
She said the situation called for every healthy individual to donate blood voluntarily and regularly.
“One way in which we can increase the donor base is to encourage family donors to become regular donors,” she said.
She said the goal of the LBTS was to provide adequate and safe blood and blood products to all the hospitals in the country to meet the needs of all the patients.
“The government is committed to ensuring blood safety, but for the acquisition of blood we appeal to every healthy individual within the age of 16 and 60 to do the honourable thing and donate blood,” she said.
Luis Sambo, a regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said in his message for the celebration of the World Blood Donor Day that Lesotho was one of the African countries that critically needed blood.
“The need for sustainable availability of safe blood in our countries cannot be overemphasised,” Sambo said.
He said most of the maternal deaths in African countries were a result of loss of blood during labour.
“The demand for blood in the WHO African region is driven by the fact that we have the highest maternal mortality rates,” he said.
“Up to 40 percent of these maternal deaths are attributed to bleeding.”
Sambo said more blood donors were needed to put the situation under control.
“People who give blood voluntarily on a regular basis are the only means of ensuring universal access to safe blood by every patient who requires blood transfusion,” he said.
Lives have been lost because of the blood shortage.
Already some people are suffering the consequences.
Tlhakanelo Moisa never thought he would have to raise his lovely three-month-old daughter without his wife.
The death of his wife came unexpectedly.
She died while giving birth to their daughter at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital three months ago.
She did not live to see her baby.
Doctors told Moisa that his wife had lost too much blood during labour.
“Doctors could not save her life. She had lost a lot of blood. They had run short of blood,” Moisa said.
The death shocked Moisa.
Even though his wife had high blood pressure, he never realised the seriousness of it.
He never suspected that it could kill his wife.
“I knew she had high blood pressure,” he said.
“But I never thought in could be a life-threatening situation.
“She went to clinic for regularly check-ups.
“She looked fine to me. She was fine when she was about to deliver.”
He added: “I could not donate blood because I did not have my blood group tested.
“I was told there was not enough blood to replenish what she lost after giving birth.”
Healthcare givers in government and private hospitals have acknowledged the blood crisis in health centres.
 “Maternal deaths are increasing,” one health practitioner told the Sunday Express.
“Mothers are dying due to loss of blood. Lives cannot be saved due to the shortage of blood.”
He said in numerous cases they have had to perform caesarean section operations without enough blood in the reserve.
“In a normal situation, during a caesarean section surgery there has to be at least a pint of fresh blood for transfusion,” he said.
“However, on many occasions surgeries are made without enough blood in reserve.
“The bank runs out of blood because there is a shortage of regular blood donors.”
 “I have heard colleagues in district hospitals say they have gone for weeks without blood,” he added.
“This is contrary to the regulation that every hospital ward should have enough blood at all times.”
He said the increasing cases of high blood pressure in pregnant women have led to massive loss of blood during labour.
“Pregnant women with high blood pressure are the ones who mostly lose lots of blood during or after child birth,” he said.
“Excessive bleeding therefore costs the life of the mother.”

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