‘People Afraid of Donated Blood’

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An official of the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that the Ebola outbreak in the country has not only caused the deaths of people, but brought uncertainty to other health services that should save lives.

Dr. Samson K. Arzoaquoi made the observation yesterday during a program marking the dedication of the Blood Bank Donation Center on 5th Street in Sinkor. The center contains screening rooms, storage, cold storage and several offices for performing various functions.

Dr. Arzoaquoi emphasized that patients with anemia and maternal related problems die when blood is not available to treat them.

He further noted that accidents cause victims to lose blood, and without a blood donation center, the victims may lose their lives also.

Dr. Arzoaquoi said as a result of the Ebola outbreak, people are afraid to receive donated blood. And with the disease being blood related, it slowed down the activities of the National Blood Safety Program in Liberia.

In spite of the uncertainty caused by the deadly disease, the MOH official said the Ministry will continue the effort to convince the public to accept screened and safe donated blood.

He commended partners including the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for assisting Liberia to overcome health challenges and establish the blood bank.

The National Blood Safety Program Director, Lwopu M. Bruce, said the program was established in 2009 with the responsibility to provide a safe, sufficient and timely supply of blood and blood related products for patients that required transfusion.

The establishment of the National Blood Safety Program, according to Madam Bruce, was meant to transition from paid donation to voluntary and unpaid blood donation.

Since its establishment, the MOH official said 38 major hospitals benefited from blood and blood products from two regional blood banks and donation centers in 2010 and 2011.

In conformity with the mandate for establishing the center, she said all possible steps have been taken to ensure that the blood dispensed is safe and that it will not harm patients when it is transfused.

Diseases for which screening is done to ensure safety of the blood include malaria, hepatitis B and C, syphilis, and HIV 1 and 2.

In order to create awareness of activities of the National Blood Safety Program, the Director said they have actively engaged in outreach activities at high schools, universities, army barracks, the Liberia National Police, ministries and agencies, Samaritan Purse International, and the Monrovia Vocational Training Center.

However, in consonance with Dr. Arzoaquoi, Madam Bruce said “It is worth noting that most of the gains made since the establishment of the National Blood Safety Program have been thwarted due to the Ebola episode in the sub-region.”

To maintain the service in order not to be inconvenienced when the need arises, she said they have to make contingency plans that will allow for the free flow of communication between transfusion services and agencies involved in managing the public health response to the outbreak.

Furthermore, she indicated that the plan should include planning for both continuity in the supply of safe blood and blood products and possible changes in demand.

Information at the early stages of an outbreak of EVD, according to the Program Director, is important to the contingency plan.

The program was attended by officials representing partnering organizations including the WHO, CDC and ACCEL.

Dr. Alex Gasasira, WHO Country Representative, commended MOH for the establishment, and for working with partners to eradicate EVD and tackle other health related issues in the country.

He also commended CDC for its strategic role in providing needed assistance for revamping of the Liberian health system, and for cooperating with the WHO to meet targeted goals.

Dr. Desmond Williams pledged CDC’s support to the project and made a commitment to assist in rebuilding Liberia’s health system.

Jeff Bailey, Laboratory Director of ACCEL, disclosed that funding for the project came from the Paul G. Allen and Family Foundation. He said that in the midst of the frightening Ebola crisis in the region, they have put in place steps to ensure that blood is screened properly and safely prepared for transfusion of patients.

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