YAOUNDE - In Cameroon, people have been supporting the war effort against Boko Haram by donating blood for the wounded, but officials say the country’s blood banks continue to run short.
Hundreds of people have been gathering at the court yard of the city council in Yaounde to donate blood for Cameroonian soldiers fighting the Boko Haram insurgency.
Among them is 50-year-old Anatol Bihina who is waiting to be tested to see if he can donate.
He says he owes the military respect and encourages them to go ahead defending Cameroon from acts of terror. He says if he is approved to donate blood, he will not hesitate to give every time he can.
Cameroon has deployed more than 3,000 troops to its northern border with Nigeria as part of the multinational joint task force battling Boko Haram. Another 1,000 soldiers are on the country's eastern border with the troubled Central African Republic to keep rebels out of Cameroon's territory.
Since it began its offensive two years ago, the regional force has chased Boko Haram out of much of the territory it once held. But raids and suicide bombings have continued.
Officials say hundreds of people wounded in Boko Haram violence, including soldiers, have died partly due to blood shortages.
According to the Ministry of Health, Cameroon runs short by at least 400,000 pints of blood every year.
Dr. Biwole Sida of the general hospital in Yaounde says donations help but still are not enough to meet the need.
The doctor says 13 percent of donated blood is rejected due to the high prevalence rate of hepatitis B.
Among those helping fill empty blood banks is the South African community. Zanele Makina, South Africa's high commissioner to Cameroon, says it was able to collect blood from at least 200 people this week.
"It’s amazing, it’s very good. We did not expect so much response from Cameroonians but the moment they saw the set where we had set up our area of blood donation, even market kids who were selling, the moment they heard or saw musicians singing, they would come and say they also want to give blood," said Makina.
In a statement, the military said it is heartened by the initiative. Cameroonian President Paul Biya has encouraged citizens to support the military. The government says it has received large food consignments and as much as $6 million in donations for the soldiers over the past two years.