COVID-19 pandemic impacted blood supply in Africa: WHO

There was a shortfall of 329,0289 units of blood in 2020

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Thursday 13 October 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the blood supply in Africa and erased years of progress in ensuring safe blood, according to a new report.

The donation rate before and after the pandemic was 4.9 units per 1,000 people and 5.9 units per 1,000 people, respectively, stated the World Health Organization’s (WHO) African Region Status Report on Blood Availability.

There was a shortfall of 329,0289 units of blood in 2020 in 38 countries, according to the WHO. Paid donations constituted 2.8 per cent of the total in the central and west African sub-regions. Such donations were reported in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

The report aims to provide updated information on critical indicators of availability and access to safe bloodThe survey collected responses from 39 of 47 WHO-African Region countries. Eight countries — Central African Republic, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tanzania did not provide any information.

Some 16 countries pooled more than 80 per cent of the required blood from voluntary non-remunerated blood donations (VNRBD). But in 19 countries, VNRBD accounted for less than 50 per cent of the total requirement.

Highlights of the survey:

  • Some 36 countries had blood donation policies in place and 23 countries had legislations. 
  • Blood requirements in 19 countries are met with government funds and 24 countries received funding from external sources. Malawi, Mauritius and Namibia are no longer sponsored by their governments. Blood requirements in these countries are funded through a cost-recovery mechanism.
  • A patient’s mean cost to access a unit of blood amounts to $42 in Africa, ranging from $1.35 in Guinea to $177 in South Africa.
  • Some 33 countries provided data on the preparation of blood components.
  • The African region discarded 344,724 units of blood, or 10.3 per cent of the total donations, owing to transfusion-transmissible infections and improper processing.

Limited donor recruitment campaigns, cultural barriers and lack of information affects donors’ willingness to donate, the survey noted. Congo expanded its blood donations by 46 per cent over the past three years with the help of WHO. Now, the country is able to meet its average yearly requirement of 150,000 pouches.

Governments should implement WHO-recommended strategies to increase voluntary blood donations and reduce the risk of transfusion-transmissible infections in blood and blood components. Blood services should work closely with all the stakeholders to increase availability, the survey noted.

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