News / Africa

Virtual Blood Donors to Rescue South Sudan Patients

Virtual Blood Donors to Rescue South Sudan Patients
Virtual Blood Donors to Rescue South Sudan Patients
Hannah McNeish

Newly independent South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world with some of the worst health statistics. Most people in the vast, rural nation will never visit a health center. But at the country’s leading hospital in the capital Juba, doctors say that patients who make it here often die due to a lack of blood. American doctors are now working to set up a system of “virtual” blood donors while the hospital battles a lack of power, storage and cultural barriers to set up a real blood bank.

In Juba Teaching Hospital’s Emergency Ward, the beds are packed and the light dim despite this being a day where the power is on in a city that suffers shortages for days at a time.

At the hospital’s laboratory, the only room that is powered by a backup generator, a handful of people wait to donate blood to their relatives. A family-size fridge in the corner contains around 20 pints of blood mostly designated for specific patients due for surgery.

Thirty-five-year-old Amin Gerald has come to donate blood for his wife who is scheduled for an operation to solve reproductive problems. A nurse at Torit Hospital, about six hours from here, Gerald often deals with patients that don’t understand the importance of giving blood.

He says taboos about blood donation in South Sudan often run stronger than ties to their nearest and dearest, and he is only “sacrificing himself” for his partner now as there is no one else to donate.

“According to what I’ve been learning from them, they believe that giving somebody blood is different blood altogether. How come it will mix itself to your own to make you survive? Unless the person is told the details and importance of that one, that’s why he or she can accept to give the blood, but not necessarily,” Gerald said.

In addition to varying tribal beliefs, doctors say they face widespread fears that sharing blood is unnatural and will make you sick, and relatives often refuse to give blood to dying loved ones.

When they do, lab technicians have a fight on their hands to try to give blood to patients in desperate need over others for which it has been donated. They say too many people are dying unnecessarily.

Matthew Fentress is a doctor from Harvard University hospital in the United States who is working in the emergency ward here.  He says that the lack of resources and awareness about blood donation are major setbacks to trying to build a real blood bank.

To try to combat this, Fentress and other doctors have set up a “virtual blood bank” of volunteers already screened who can come in at short notice to replenish stocks.

He hopes the initiative will allow blood in the small fridge to be diverted to emergencies and stop the doctors having to watch patients die needlessly in emergencies or even common cases of anemia and malaria.

“It’s very, very difficult when we see that happening and we can’t , I mean if we don’t have the blood, there’s not much we can do for them. It grew out of seeing that and it started out with a couple of colleagues who said gosh, if you ever need blood just call me. So we did that once and then thought, why don’t we expand that and have more people on a list who would give blood? We’re small now but we’re going to expand,” Fentress said.

Doctor Kuma Chuol says that bleeding is the number one cause of maternal mortality in the hospital and hopes the scheme expands.

“It is just the beginning and I hope it succeeds. But I think they need assistance from the communities. There must be medical education or health education for the communities so that they accept to come and donate freely so that we have enough blood in our blood bank,” Chuol said.

Laboratory staff say that in addition to concerns about contracting diseases from donating, patients often don’t want to go through the blood screening process in fear they might discover they have an existing disease. Those testing positive for HIV often flee the scene instead of seeking treatment.

A central blood bank that can hold up to 200 pints is being built at the hospital next year. But unless taboos are broken down, filling it will be a big challenge.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs