Eritrea: Blood donation – A noble act


When I was in high school, volunteers and medical staff from the blood bank came to give us insight into the importance of donating blood. There was a sort of saying they kept repeating, “Giving blood is more of a selfish act. I never really understood what this meant, and at the time I wasn’t able to donate because I was underweight. Now that I am making a donation, I know what “selfishness” entails; by donating blood you are not only helping others, but also yourself, as the act of giving can improve your own well-being. Also, any person who donates blood undergoes a simple physical examination and a blood test before donating blood, which in itself is an assurance of the health of the person.

It is known that the history of blood donation in Eritrea began during the independence struggle in 1976 in hospitals built by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Eritrea (EPLF). In its early days, the EPLF did not have facilities to train a blood bank, but in 1984 a temporary blood bank was established to provide services to the frontline hospital called Arareb. A blood bank was also opened in Asmara in 1981, which primarily served war-wounded Ethiopian soldiers. After independence, the main blood bank was established at Orotta hospital, and smaller blood banks were later formed in eight other hospitals.

In January 2002, Eritrea established the autonomous National Blood Transfusion Center (NBTC). Initially, the center, headed by a medical director, had only a laboratory, a blood donor and administrative services. Since 2007, however, divisions for important functions such as the quality management department and the data management system have been included in the organizational structure.

The blood donor service is the division responsible for conducting campaigns and collecting blood from volunteers. Under this division there are sections that recruit donors and counseling services. Mobile teams are often posted in remote areas to provide services and prevent people from traveling to centers. Since its inception, the blood transfusion center has strived to provide safe and adequate blood throughout the country. In addition, the NBTC separates blood components from whole blood (WB). This means that a patient who needs a blood component receives it separately, whether it is red blood cells, plasma or platelets, instead of receiving WB indiscriminately. This is important in that it prevents putting unnecessary pressure on the heart, allowing it to function normally.

The NBTC’s annual goal is to collect 12,000 to 15,000 units from voluntary unpaid donors. The estimate of 12,000 to 15,000 units is the number approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is calculated based on past blood use, number of hospital beds, total population and medical facilities. The amount of blood collected by the bank varies from 80 to 85% of the target per year. According to this year’s NBTC report, those percentages are not what they want to accomplish. Mr. Abraham Yemane, medical director of the NBTC, said the reason why the desired percentage was not achieved is the lack of awareness of the benefits of donating blood, although this is gradually changing. He said this gives them hope that over the next few years they will get the amount of blood they want. He praises regular donors, who actively help meet grassroots demands at critical times. Campaigns are run from time to time through meetings, pictorial exhibitions as well as staged dramas to strengthen society’s willingness to donate blood. This is to their advantage because it can be reciprocally transfused to them.

The blood collected by the NBTC comes from regular individual donors, employees of government and private organizations, civil society organizations such as women’s, youth and student associations, high schools and the National Volunteers Blood. Donors Association (NVBDA). In 2006, members of the association who have the rare blood group, RH-ve, formed a club to help meet the need for easier access to the rare blood group. Likewise, in November 2009 the members of the association with RH + ve formed a club, and in 2011 the two merged into rescue clubs. When they first met in 2013, they transformed their club into an association, NVBDA. The association has branches in five regions of the country and its purpose, which is linked to that of the blood transfusion center, is to help alleviate the blood shortage in the country and to provide safe blood to those who have it. need.

The Ministry of Health, through its clinical service under the medical directorate, organizes international relations with the center, if necessary. The Swiss Red Cross (CRS) was instrumental in the creation of the NBTC, providing equipment and playing an important role in bringing the blood bank to its current status.

The quality management service is one of the best services of the establishment. It follows standards to measure each activity within the center. It uses standards, quality manuals, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and forms to assess challenges encountered and service disruptions encountered as well as the quality of performance of activities. Internal and external audits are carried out regularly to assess each division in accordance with its mission. The external audit is carried out every three years by the South African Bureau of Blood Bank Standards recognized by the WHO. Auditors visit the center annually for surveillance audit and every three years for certification.

Every day, thousands of people need donated blood and blood products to stay healthy or alive. Whole blood donation can help these people. The bank’s message to the population is to continue to donate blood.

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