“I live because of other people’s blood.” This is a story of a 28 year old woman of Eswatini who was diagnosed with severe anemia back in 2011.
During the commemoration of the World Blood Donor Day on June 14, Tibusile Msibi narrated how she survived severe anemia due to generous voluntary blood donors in the Kingdom of Eswatini. Since 2011, Tibusile has been receiving blood transfusion at least once a month for severe anemia because her body could not produce red blood cells. Without the blood donors, she would have lost her life at a tender age. However, she is now living a normal life and is leading a youth organization in the country.
It is for such reasons that on 14 June every year, we celebrate and thank individuals who donate blood and encourage those who have not yet donated blood to start donating. It is important to raise wider awareness that blood donation is an altruistic action that benefits all of society and that an adequate supply can only be ensured through regular donations by voluntary, unpaid blood donors. There is need for committed, year-round blood donation, in order to maintain adequate supplies and achieve national self-sufficiency of blood. This year’s commemoration was held under the theme: “Be There For Someone Else, Give Blood, Share Life”. The theme focuses on blood donation as an act of solidarity and highlights stories of people whose lives have been saved through blood donation, as a way of motivating regular blood donors to continue giving blood, and to motivate people in good health who have never given blood to begin doing so, particularly young people.
In 2013, the ministries of Health and Education and Training established a Partnership for Safe Blood fully supported by the school principals and guidance and counselling teachers. The schools are used as a source of voluntary blood donors. This has ensured that students are mentored into becoming responsible citizens that care for other people in need in the country.
Through assistance from development partners such as The President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the Eswatini National Blood Transfusion Services (ENBTS) has developed systems that ensure the safety of blood and blood products. The ENBTS has adopted newer quality standards and technology with major improvement in the quantity, quality and safety of blood products that are produced in the laboratory.
During an event held at the National Blood Transfusion Services offices to mark the commemoration of the World Blood Donor Day the Honourable Minister of Health Senator Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane stated that blood is an essential commodity, which no one can put a price on. She thanked the learners and teachers for accommodating the blood donor campaigns within their schools and for their generous donation of blood. “The Ministry of Health would like to appreciate and thank all our voluntary regular blood donors who have been donating their blood and platelets to save lives in the hospitals in the country. We would like to encourage all donors - young and old, to continue donating blood at our centre within the Mbabane Government Hospital Laboratory,” said Honorable Simelane.
Speaking at the commemoration the WHO Representative Dr Tigest Ketsela Mengestu stated that blood donation is an altruistic action that benefits all of society. She noted that blood transfusion saves lives and it helps patients suffering from life-threatening conditions to live longer, better quality lives, and supports complex medical and surgical procedures. It has an essential, life-saving role in maternal and child care and during the emergency responses to disasters, as well as in road traffic accidents and injuries.
“Safe blood donations play a vital role in providing effective and prompt care for patients in need. This is how ordinary people can be there for someone else - by giving blood and sharing life,” she said adding that an adequate supply of safe blood is therefore essential. She said this could only be ensured through regular donations by voluntary, unpaid blood donors.
Dr Mengestu further urged the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to support voluntary blood donations as a solidarity act for all, and to ensure that national blood services have sustainable funding for blood safety programmes. She also encouraged the Ministry of Health to put active measures in place to strengthen national blood services to enhance universal access to safe blood.
“As we commemorate World Blood Donor Day, I urge all of us to focus attention on blood donation as an expression of community participation in the health system, and the importance of community participation in maintaining sufficient, safe and sustainable blood supplies. Let us promote the community values of blood donation in enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion and in encouraging people to care for one another and build a caring community,” she said.
Also part of the activities of the day was the donation of blood by the United Nations Eswatini staff. This was the second year in a row that UN staff in the Kingdom come together to join the move to save lives by donating blood as a way of commemorating World Blood Donor Day. This exercise took place at the United Nations offices, where about 20 officers from the different UN agencies donated blood. These officers were led by the different heads of agencies who also donated blood.