News / Africa

Blood Supply in Kenyan Health System Dangerously Low

Blood Supply in Kenyan Health System Dangerously Low
Blood Supply in Kenyan Health System Dangerously Low


Kenya's health-care system has little more than half of the blood supply it needs for transfusions, often resulting in only the most urgent cases being taken care of. Blood comes primarily from school-aged children, patients' relatives, and even from patients themselves. Less than 10 percent of adult Kenyans donate blood. The National Blood Transfusion Services says a big reason for this is because of fears among potential donors that they would find out their HIV status.

The emergencies are there, but the life-saving blood may not be.

Kenya's National Blood Transfusion Services estimates the country needs 200-thousand units of blood per year, to deal with illnesses, surgeries, accidents and other medical conditions.

But from the time the organization was established in 2001, the supply has sometimes been as low as 40,000 units. The most blood Kenya has ever had on hand is 130,000 units, a little more than half the target amount.

Dr. Walter Mwanda is head of blood transfusion services at Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya's largest public health care facility. He says blood shortages have a significant impact on medical procedures at his hospital.

"We leave the [small number of] units that there are for real, real, real [serious] cases," said Dr. Mwanda.  "So the first thing, I must admit, suffers is surgery: elective surgery. Stop."

Dr. Mwanda says elective surgeries that require blood are triaged on the basis of urgency. Patients undergoing long-term elective surgeries are advised to donate their own blood, a practice Dr. Mwanda says accounts for a significant percentage of the hospital's surgery blood supply.

Another major source of blood comes from the relatives of those who need the blood.
One such donor is university student Victor Joseph Oluoch.  He's supplying blood for his sister-in-law, who suffers from kidney complications.

"People did not accept to donate blood for her, so we had to volunteer as family members. The whole group that is donating to her is just from our family," said Oluoch.

Oluoch gives one reason for peoples' reluctance to donate blood.

"Some people believe that the blood they donate, the hospitals go ahead to sell them to other people. They feel that there is no need of donating - it is like they are donating their blood for commercial purposes," he explained.

Almost all of the blood collected by the National Blood Transfusion Services comes from high school and university students between the ages of 17 and 25.

Fewer than 10 percent of adult Kenyans donate blood to the blood bank, says Dr. Margaret Oduor, national director of the National Blood Transfusion Services.

"Most people are not comfortable with the fact that, at the end of it you will test their blood and give them their HIV [status]," explained Dr. Oduor.  "They are saying they would rather not know it that way, and that keeps them back. Because they are coming forward to give you blood, but at the end of it they may end up with bad news that they were not prepared for."

Dr. Oduor says in reality, only 1.3 percent of the blood collected is found to be HIV-positive.  Of the blood that has to be destroyed, almost half is caused by the presence of Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and syphilis, while the other half is due to problems in the collection process.

She and other health-care professionals urge Kenyans to get tested for HIV/AIDS in one of the many Volunteer Counseling and Testing Centers (VCTs).

"We are encouraging people who have gone to the VCTs and have known their status - because that fear has been removed - to come forward now to us and give us blood," added Dr. Oduor.

Health care professionals in Kenya are also pushing for what they call a structured donor system that involves regular education campaigns, blood drives, and mobile donor clinics to reach office workers and people living in rural areas.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs