YAOUNDE - Cameroonians are being encouraged to contribute blood for wounded soldiers fighting Boko Haram terrorism and rebel incursions from the troubled Central African Republic. Some of the blood donated is rejected after HIV and hepatitis testing.
Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda said Cameroon needs at least 190,000 liters (400,000 pints) of blood for its soldiers. He said the shortages are forcing medical staff to give blood needed for transfusion only in very urgent cases.
He said they now want to develop a strategic plan in which donors will be identified and then be followed up on. He said they will create blood donor centers in all regions of Cameroon where the blood will be tested and treated with special equipment.
Among those in need of blood are wounded soldiers fighting the Boko Haram insurgency that has claimed about 20 000 lives and displaced millions in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Benin.
Among the hundreds of Cameroonians that have heeded calls to donate blood for the military is 22-year-old university student Tokam Rene. "We can't carry bombs. We can't carry arms to go and fight against Boko Haram but we can participate with our blood to support our soldiers," the student said.
Blood, tested and treated
Fadimatou Iyawa, 18, said she is donating blood to encourage the military to get revenge for the death of her three relatives killed by Boko Haram suicide bombers. "I am a Cameroonian and this is a civic engagement for me to show my patriotism,” she said. “This is my own way to react against Boko Haram."
Lionnel Koungaba of Cameroons National Youth Council CNYC, that is also organizing blood donations, said they are happy with the turnout of blood donors. "We have received more than 200 youths already. We are satisfied and we have to take it [for] two days because we will not be able to take all of the blood for one day," he said.
Efforts to donate the blood are hampered by hepatitis B that is present in between 10 and 13 percent of donors and HIV which is present in 5.4 percent of the donors.
As Cameroon's population has increased, so has the need for blood. The country's population today is about 22 million.