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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs