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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs