Busoga in urgent need of a blood bank
By Claire Zerida Balungi
Oblivious of the political dilemma affecting quality of service offered in our regional hospitals, patients walk away frightened by the stink of death thrust on nature; a nature that’s escapable if urgent action were taken on Busoga’s ailing health system. The fate of the region drowns still in compromised healthcare; scarcity of blood at health facilities. For its ever-so growing population, Busoga sub-region is in desperate need of a blood bank- for collection and processing of blood, storage of safe blood and blood products such as red cells, plasma, platelets, granulocytes.
Far away in Nakasero, Kampala, blood is analyzed and declared safe for transfusion. Safe blood can only therefore be obtained from Nakasero blood bank. Across the bridge in Jinja is only a blood collection centre that is relied upon by the eleven districts of Busoga sub-region including some parts of the Central region for instance, Buikwe, Mukono. Very little of the collected blood returns to the region and sometimes, delays in transportation of blood back are experienced. The long distances between different health facilities and the only blood collection centre (in Jinja) in the entire East Central region of Uganda, further complicates the supply chain of blood and its products to the regional referral hospital whenever there is need.
Currently, malaria, a principal threat to Busoga, is one of the leading contributors of anaemia especially among children. The World Health Organization estimates anaemic children less than 5 years of age at 42%. In Uganda alone, we lose a taxi/matatu (14 people) to malaria per day. Busoga sub-region being a high malaria transmission area is a generous contributor to that statistic due to this unmet need. The people of Busoga cannot remember a time the region wasn’t grappling with this ill fate, against which the Ministry of Health through its Malaria Reduction Activity (MRA) has of recent strongly drawn its weapons.
Poverty has for the longest known time threatened livelihood in Busoga sub-region, nourishing people with an overwhelming disease burden, thereby exposing them to nutritional deficiency especially iron deficiency.
Sixteen women die every day in Uganda due to maternal-related complications with no exception to mothers who undergo caesarean section during childbirth, where blood transfusion is required.
Busoga emerged as one of the top two regions in the country with high sickle cell burden according to the “Burden of sickle cell trait and disease in the Uganda Sickle Surveillance Study” published in the LANCET Global Health in 2016. This makes the region one of the highest in blood demand to meet the routine transfusion of blood to sickle cell patients in the sub-region.
To contribute to improved access and availability of blood and blood products, and to address the unmet need and demand for blood transfusion services in Busoga, there is need to urgently; establish a regional blood bank at Jinja Regional Referral Hospital, increase resources for blood and blood products in the region, increase capacity to screen and store blood and blood products and to improve community participation in blood donation activities.
Busoga Health Forum (BHF) as a think tank for best health promotion has a fiery vision to support the region to thrive and ride on the wheel of unity, a timeless formula to development, of medical professionals and non-medical practitioners who recognize Busoga as mother. This is an urgent call to the government to take critical action to improve healthcare in Busoga region. Busoga, with over four million people, makes an important contribution to the improvement of health indicators in Uganda.
photo by BABA TV Uganda