UGANDA: Gulu Regional Blood Bank Grapples With Blood Shortage Amidst the Lockdown

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Some of the blood donors donating blood during a recent blood donation campaign in Gulu district

One of the serious effects of COVI-19 lockdown is lack of blood. As we are all aware, 70 to 75 percent of blood used to be collected from schools or institutions but because of this pandemic, schools have been closed since March 2020 and the national lockdown has affected the supply of blood seriously.

Gulu-Uganda:On June 17, 2020, Simon Peter Okumu, a consistent blood donor rushed his five-year old daughter, Esther Lakaraber, to Gulu Regional Referral Hospital as she was suffering from Malaria and yellow fever and needed immediate blood transfusion.

To Okumu’s dismay, his daughter could not have the life saving blood transfusion she badly needed. “I presented my blood donor’s card to one of the doctors who promised to secure me some units of blood to save my daughter’s life”, Okumu told Black Star News, few weeks after his daughter was discharged without blood transfusion.

“The doctor at the children’s ward upon discharging my daughter after one week in the hospital prescribed folic acid which he told me to buy from a private pharmacy in Gulu City”, Okumu reveals in shock.

According to Okumu, each folic acid is to be taken once a day and his daughter supplements it with vegetables, fruits and juice in a bid to add more blood in her body.

Lamony Jwee, a 45 -time blood donor equally shares his plight saying in late March 2020, he took one of his relatives to one of the biggest hospitals in Northern Region for blood transfusion as the health condition required so, but was frustrated after the doctors demanded that he first donate blood to replace the one to be given to his sick relative.

“I had no other choice but to donate my blood there and then which was then taken to the hospital’s blood bank to replace the one that matches with my relative’s blood group given”, says Lamony.

However, Gulu Regional Blood Bank revealed that it is struggling to raise enough blood for hospitals and health centres in the region amidst the lockdown.

Officials of Gulu Regional Blood Bank told Black Star News that an average of 75 percent of blood donation used to be got from donors in schools and other learning institutions but that the numbers of blood donors have drastically gone done during the lockdown.

Charles Kidega New, the Focal Person blood donor recruitment officer from Uganda Red Cross Society under Gulu Regional Blood Bank told our reporter in an interview that the global pandemic that made Uganda to impose lockdown has greatly affected blood donations, leading to blood shortage at the blood bank.

“One of the serious effects of COVI-19 lockdown is lack of blood. As we are all aware, 70 to 75 percent of blood used to be collected from schools or institutions but because of this pandemic and the national lockdown, schools have been closed since March 2020; which has affected blood donations seriously”, says Kidega.

According to Kidega, they used to collect an average of 80 units of blood in a day before schools and institutions were closed but that currently, they collect 35 to 40 units of blood in a day from the community.

He also revealed that to cope with the challenge, Gulu Regional Blood Bank devised means where potential blood donors are approached from their homes with the help of community resource persons and the lower local leaders.

“Now that students are not in schools, as Uganda Red Cross Society and Gulu Regional Blood Bank, we are now moving to the communities unlike in the past where we moved to the common centres”, Kidega notes

“We are now using community resource persons to mobilize for us the potential blood donors so that when we go, we find when they are organized and we get fair units of blood”, he adds.

Gulu Regional Blood Bank supply blood to government and private health facilities in Acholi and Lango Sub-Regions, Kiryandongo and Adjumani districts. Currently, the blood bank has 500 units of blood ready for supply.

Dr. Kenneth Cana, the In-Charge of Awach Health Centre IV in Gulu district revealed that the health facility will start blood transfusion services in two weeks time and that in an event where they experience shortage of blood supply, they will ask caretakers to voluntarily donate blood.

Cana also adds that as health workers, whenever they get an opportunity they sensitize the community and encourage them to donate blood.

Francesca Amony, the Councillor V of Pece Division in Gulu City revealed that majority of the local community are shunning away from donating blood saying their own bodies need enough blood to battle COVID -19 pandemic in case they get infected.

Amony appealed to the local community to be kind enough to donate blood since through their donations, they will be saving lives of those who badly need blood transfusion.

“There is serious crisis of blood in the hospitals and this is affecting the lives of so many, I am appealing to all concerned citizens that they should save lives today”, Amony appeals.

“Imagine that we do not donate blood and maybe my child, my husband, my sister or my brother gets sick and needs blood, where will they get blood from? I am encouraging you to keep donating blood”, she adds.

Among the patients who require blood transfusion are children with anaemia, expectant mothers, accident victims and those to undergo operation.



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