By Bulawayo Correspondent
THE Covid-19 induced schools’ closure this year adversely affected National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) blood stocks.
According to the blood collection body, schools traditionally contributed more than 80% of blood through the organisation.
However, the government imposition of a national lockdown to try and contain the spread of Covid-19 starting March this year saw the closure of schools and the consequent depletion of blood stocks.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, NBSZ Southern Region Manager, Ntuthuko Nyathi said his organisation has devised other blood collection initiatives in the wake of the dwindling blood stocks from schools.
“With the advent of Covid-19, schools closed, drying our trusted source of blood collection. When schools were opened, this was in a phased approach allowing examination classes to proceed and we don’t normally want to disturb examination seating classes,” he said.
“Attendance by non-examination classes is still erratic and this has had a major impact on our blood collection efforts to stockpile for the festive season which normally sees a spike in the demand for blood and blood products due to an increase in accidents in our roads nationally as families travel for holidays to different destinations.”
In view of the constrained blood supplies from schools, Nyathi said his organisation was now targeting adult blood donors.
“Adults contribute about 20% to blood collections. We have seen the contribution from adults shifting up marginal to above 30% mainly due to our efforts to recruit more adult donors in view of the constrained supply from schools,” he said.
Nyathi said over the years, NBSZ has cultivated a reliable population of blood donating youths known as the “Pledge 25”.
“This is a programme that was conceived by NBSZ and has since been adopted by more than 80 countries worldwide. The Pledge 25 is a grouping of youths who pledge to contribute 25 pints of blood post high school until the age of 30.
“This initiative has seen us getting a reliable pool of blood donors giving us close to 5% of our blood requirements and has been key in stabilising our blood bank in the Covid era,” said the Southern Region Manager.
NBSZ, Nyathi said, has also embarked on intensive blood donating conscientizing programmes in Bulawayo’s high-density suburbs.
“Our teams have gone into communities such as Mpopoma, Nkulumane, Luveve and Cowdry Park with hailers, encouraging adults to donate blood at community halls. This has improved percentage contribution from adults to above 30%,” he said.
Faith based organisations have also played a critical role in stabilising blood stocks for the organisation.
“We also have a group of blood donors which is a grouping Caucasian communities who organise themselves to give blood normally around Bradfield and Hillside suburbs.
“We are moving towards a healthy blood bank with safe and adequate blood stocks at the Bulawayo branch in this new normal.
“We encourage all healthy people between the ages of 16 and 70, weighing 50kgs and above to visit our blood collection sites and clinics to give the precious life-saving liquid.
“Blood cannot be manufactured in a laboratory; so it is everyone’s call to save a life by donating the God given gift of life,” he said.