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February 27, 2024
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Commercialising blood donation and fate of children living with cancer

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By Justina Auta, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Mrs Mary Danlami, stood at the entrance of the emergency unit in the hospital looking dejected with tears streaming down her cheeks, as she awaits the doctor’s for counsel concerning her daughter, who was rushed in some hours ago.

Eight-year old Mercy, a vibrant primary three pupil has been diagnosed with the cancer of the blood otherwise called leukemia.

Before the diagnosis, efforts to treat her of what seemed to be a strange ailment had seen them visit several hospitals and ‘miracle healing’ places. They proved futile.

Several thoughts flashed through her troubled mind including any chance of her daughter growing up to fulfill her destiny as she sat in the hospital’s waiting room.

Danlami has just been told that her daughter needed another blood transfusion due to her low blood count. It will go a long way in alleviating her daughter’s problem.

But, there is a major challenge to the recommended blood transfusion. Money.

With the reality of her inability to finance the treatment, Danladi’s next option is to move her ailing child to a local medicine man, whom many claimed has power over all ailments.

Like Mercy, the parents of many children diagnosed with various forms of cancer have either sought alternative treatment and care of completely or stopped seeking cure as the cost of managing the condition continues to soar.

Sourcing blood remains one of the greatest challenges they face.

Experts say children suffering from cancer may need blood on a regular basis during chemotherapy, surgery or treatment for complications, which can put them at risk of low red blood cell and platelet counts.

Ms Kemi Adekanye, the Chief Volunteer, Okapi Children Cancer Foundation, during a recent Cancer Awareness Walk said diagnosis and treatment of cancer was expensive and not easily affordable and accessible for some families, especially those in rural areas.

Adekanye, suggested that incorporating childhood cancer treatment and care into the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) would reduce the burden and support parents and caregivers.

Also, Dr Adamu Alhassan, the President, Nigerian Cancer Society, at the same event said cancer treatment in children was highly neglected and underestimated in Nigeria in spite of high death rate among victims.

Alhassan added that early detection and treatment could have averted such deaths.

He said one of the major challenges faced by such patients is that of accessing blood for their ailing children.

No humans can live without blood, as it helps in transporting oxygen and nutrients to the lungs and tissues, forms clots to prevent excess blood loss, amongst others.

However, voluntary blood donation without expecting any gratification is not common in the country.

This is due to various factors including religion, social and cultural beliefs, according to Hajiya Hussaina Baba, a cancer awareness advocate.

Dr Omale Amedu, the Acting Director-General, National Blood Service Commission (NBSC) in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) decried the poor attitude of Nigerians in voluntarily donating blood.

Amedu said blood saves lives and avoidable deaths, morbidities or ill health, particularly amongst cancer patients, pregnant women who suffer from postpartum hemorrhage, new born babies and children, victims of road accidents and insurgencies.

The NBSC chief said that global health report shows that Nigeria needed an average of two million pints of blood annually to carter for the blood health need of the over 200 million population some them are children living with cancer.

“It is sad to note that out of these 200 million units of blood required as a nation, the blood service Commission collects only500,00 units, which is 25 per cent of the expected annual blood donation.

“This leaves us with a shortfall of 1.5 million units of blood, which is 75 per cent of our expected annual blood donation”, he said.

Unfortunately, most Nigerians do not voluntarily donate blood, unless the recipient is a family member, friend or acquaintance.

Some are of them argue that if blood is freely donated, it should also be freely transfused to those who need it.

But, the NBSC boss explained that screening one unit of blood cost over N60, 000, hence the charges by health facilities or hospitals between N10,000 to N13,000 was merely to cover some expenses association with the transfusion.

Mr Nathan John, 42 years, is Nigeria’s highest blood donor. He has voluntarily donated blood over 75 times and said he engaged in blood donation to save lives, especially for those in emergency situation.

According to him, blood donation without attaching condition or even giving blood in exchange for money was necessary because the donated blood could save the life of any person including that of the donor’s loved ones.

He said this was his motivation for engaging in advocacies on blood donation, particularly by young people.

Medical experts say regular blood donation is also benefit to the donor.

According to them, it reduces blood pressure, lower risk of heart attack, revitalises the body system, good for mental health, improves cardiovascular health, and reduces obesity, among others.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr Walter Mulumbo said Nigerians should make conscientious efforts to improve on the volume of blood in blood banks.

While decrying the Nigeria’s poor annual blood donation rate, he said there was need for the governments to partner with relevant stakeholders like traditional and religious leaders in advocating free blood donation.

He said these will help in demystifying, misconceptions, beliefs and other factors that discourage people from donating and receiving blood and other blood products.

A lot of children, including those living with cancer, accidents victims, sickle cell patients, pregnant women, victims of accidents and crimes have lost their lives due to unavailability of blood in the hospitals.

Blood donation is needed to ensure that blood products are readily available at all times for pediatric cancer patients and others who need it. It is crucial that Nigerians embrace the culture of blood donation to save these lives.

Cultivating the habit of regular blood donation without expecting gratification or remuneration will save lives. It will also improve the life of the donor. It is a win-win situation therefore worth doing. (NANFeatures)

**If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria.

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