Why 99% Of Nigerians Can’t Donate Blood | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Why 99% Of Nigerians Can’t Donate Blood

Posted: Jun 11, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Voluntary blood donation seems to be a strange concept to most Nigerians due to several erroneous believes, suspicions and misconceptions.  In this interview, our Correspondent, HASSAN ZAGGI, takes on the Head Donor Care Branch of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), Mrs Helen Goyo, seeking to know the challenges and constraints militating against having sufficient blood in the country for use during emergencies. Except:

What are the challenges in recruiting voluntary blood donors?

Mrs Helen Goyo

Mrs Helen Goyo

The challenges are many. One prominent one is lack of awareness. People have not heard much about the importance of voluntary blood donation and by extension, people have not heard much about NBTS. Again, people are still afraid to donate blood due to one form of suspicion or the other.

Some people have the erroneous belief that if they donate blood something unpleasant will happen to them while others even believe that if they donate blood, they will fall down and die. Some men also wrongly believe that if they donate blood their manhood will die and will not be effective anymore.

Donor recruitment is one of the difficult tasks in NBTS. Even the little that we are able to get currently is due to the effort of donor recruiters who are able to patiently sensitise and create awareness for people to come and donate blood.

I keep saying that Nigeria is estimated to be over 170 million people, if only one percent of this population can volunteer to donate blood, we shall not lack blood in Nigeria. It is very painful that we are not getting at least one percent of our population to come and donate blood for use by those who will need it.


What new strategies do you intend to adopt to ensure that the concept of donor care clinic is well accepted by the public?

What we intend to do is to go into local communities across the country. We have already kick started by going to the major traditional rulers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Some of them have in turn held meetings with other local chiefs in the interior areas to create a platform for us to sensitise them on donor care clinic.

Some of the royal fathers have given us appointment to go and sensitise their communities, which we have started doing. Community sensitisation and mobilisataion is one of the strategies we are embarking on now and is working for us.

The other strategy we are adopting is that we want to have people in the country that we want to refer to as Ambassadors, Patrons, Matrons and Friends of NBTS.

As we are talking now, letters have gone to 10 prominent individuals in Nigeria including: Aligo Dangote, the Catholic Arc. Bishop of Nigeria and some royal fathers.  I am glad to let you know that the Chief of Abaji who is equally the chief of all chiefs in the FCT has given his nod to be our Ambassador. The Catholic Bishop of Nigeria has given his approval to be our ambassador as well as T.Y. Danjuma and many others. We have also consulted the Sultan of Sokoto and we believe we will get favourable response from him.

The reason we are doing all these is that we want them to be the voice for NBTS so that when they speak Nigerians will listen to them because of the immense respect and influence they have on the people.

We earlier sent a letter to the former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, before she left, and now efforts will be made to contact the current First Lady because she is the mother of the nation. Also don’t forget that mothers and children are mostly the beneficiary of blood donation and blood transfusion.

The other strategy we are putting in place that is already working for us is the secondary school blood donation programme or what I call Secondary School Blood Safety Programme.

You know that the blood donation we are doing today is a short-term measure. We are getting the blood donation for today and not for the future. The secondary school blood donation programme is a long-term strategy and is blood donation for tomorrow. If we are able to capture these young boys and girls who are mostly in SS2 and SS3, by the time they graduate and go to higher institutions, blood donation issue will no longer be new to them.

We are currently working with five secondary schools in the FCT and have inaugurated blood donation clubs in the schools. What we are planning now is to organise a one day training for them in order to teach them the basics of blood donation so that by the time they go to their communities they can boldly talk to anyone about blood donation.

We also intend to start blood donation for the teachers in the schools. This is to enable the students see how we do it even though they are not going to donate until they are 18 years and above.

We have also evolved many strategies to keep the young students busy to make them know the importance of blood donation. This to me is a big strategy for future blood donors.

Because of the success of this programme, the national coordinator has encouraged me to expand it to other schools and we have already written to the FCT Secondary School Board and they have given us the approval.

When I talked about community blood drive, in the city, when our donors donate blood, they will want to be given a cap or T-Shirt, but I intend to change the strategy for the community blood drive.

What I want to present to the communities is what they need in their communities. For example, in this farming season, the local community people will need boot to wear to their farms, the Fulani women will need bowls that they use to carry their nono (cow milk). But we don’t even have the funds to buy these little gift items unless organisations and individuals come to our aid. I am convinced that only five Nigerians can decide to do for NBTS what the American government is doing for us, if they want to.

How is the Federal Government funding the programme since it is an agency of government?

This organisation is owned by the federal government and is being funded by the government.

There are three categories of workers here. There are federal government staff in which all their salaries are paid by the federal ministry of health; we have project staff who are being taken care of from the money we get from the CDC while state staff are being paid by their various states. It is these staff that are being paid by the American CDC that is our concern now considering that the CDC will suspend its funding in September.

What we are crying for now is that, if it is possible, let both the federal and state governments absolve these staff apart from some of us that are retired civil servants that are being called upon to come and do consultancy services. If the federal and state governments can take all these staff into the civil service, it will do us a lot of good.

Let me say here that now that the American CDC is going to leave us by September, the federal government has no choice than to take over the 100 per cent responsibility of NBTS. The government cannot afford to leave us hanging. The standard has already been set. People have gotten use to getting properly screened blood from the NBTS, we cannot say like any other organisation we should pack up, that is not possible.


What advice do you have for Nigerians?

Nigeria is the only country that we have and the people are our greatest assets.  For that reason, we should be our brothers’ keepers. Nigerians should take care of what belong to them, especially in a situation of blood services. People may not understand it clearly, blood services is one key aspect of the health sector in Nigeria.

If Nigerians believe in what we are doing in the NBTS and they put their mind to it, we have the capacity to take care of this blood services beyond what we are getting from the American government.

The blood that is collected from here is for everybody. It is not for a section of people, it is for every Nigerian.

Nigerians should please be Nigerians that I know when I was growing up. I know Nigerians are very caring, wonderful, committed to helping each other and can give to you what they have at any time, any day. We need Nigerians to come and take over these blood services as their own project so that at the end of the day, we want to be the best blood services in the world.

If you cannot donate blood directly, do something to support NBTS. I am calling on Nigerians to make this blood services their own and donate whatever they think including ideas, materials that can move the service forward.