Are Kenya’s hospitals struggling with blood supply?

Examining the supply and distribution of blood in Kenya’s blood banks

The availability of blood is an essential requirement in medical procedures, and this is the reason why blood banks exist. They serve as storehouses in hospitals, where blood of all groups and genotypes can be accessed, processed, tested to reduce the risk of transfusion-related problems, and ultimately made available to those who need them, be in accident victims or those suffering from gunshot wounds.

In Kenya, there are reports that the country’s blood banks may be running a few pints too short.

Since the middle of 2019, blood stocks in hospitals across the East African nation have reportedly been running low, leading to multiple calls for blood donations on social media. However, the efficacy of these calls is debatable, as the authority to collect and test blood in Kenya is exclusively vested in the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services (KNBTS).

According to reports and personal accounts of patients, this shortage in blood supply is slowly taking its toll on the distribution of blood across the country’s hospitals, and is also seriously affecting the plight of pregnant woman suffering post-partum hemorrhage, as well as surgery patients, malaria patients and those suffering from anemia.

Kenya’s current national demand stands at 500,000 units per year. However, KNBTS’ blood collection has stood at only about 150,000 to 200,000 units a year. These days, sick patients usually have to call on friends or relatives to donate blood for them. There is also the challenge of hospitals charging for blood collection, testing and transfusion.

There have also been accusations of poor planning on the part of Kenya’s Ministry of Health. KNBTS was established by the United States in 1998, with a seventeen-year plan for foreign donor funding after which the Ministry of Health was supposed to take over. Funding was reduced in 2015, and in 2019 funding was withdrawn altogether, with the Ministry of Health struggling to implement a smooth process of financial administration.

Various stakeholders, including the country’s Health Cabinet Secretary, have attempted to quell the fears of the populace, claiming that there is an adequate supply of blood, but the fact remains that the country’s health sector has its work cut out in earning the people’s trust. Blood must be readily available and distributed freely, and calls for blood donations for social media must reduce, otherwise the people would keep being apprehensive.

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