The Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) says prevalent myths on blood donation are hindering people’s willingness to donate blood.
MBTS Medical Officer, Dr. Bridon M’baya, revealed this Thursday during a science café jointly organized by MBTS and the Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust in Blantyre.
M’baya, who suspected that Malawians might have developed cold feet due to the famous ‘Chilobwe (township) Murders’ that took place between 1968 and 1973, said myths have contributed directly towards the country’s blood shortage problem.
The Chilobwe murders led to the death of over 20 people, and the subsequent arrest and conviction of two government officials.
“This is evident in the fact that, out of 80,000 units of blood that the country needs annually, the best we have achieved is (to) collect 42,000 units in 2010. Many people are not willing to donate blood,” said M’baya.
M’baya described this as an act of selfishness as “the 450 millilitres of blood we draw from an individual person can save the lives of four children”, apart from contributing towards medical research and disease diagnosis.
M’baya’s sentiments were shared by Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital-based Hematologist-consultant Dr. Steve McKew and College of Medicine’s Hematology lecturer, Dr. Ben Chosamata.
McKew said he found Malawians’ reluctance to donate blood “a little bit strange” because in such countries as The United Kingdom blood banks are always almost full “due to the increased number of people who show willingness to, and actually, donate blood”.
On his part, Chosamata urged Malawians to embrace the culture of blood donation, saying donated blood helps medical personnel come up with answers to complex health situations.
“In which case, it is not only the individual (blood) donor who benefits but mankind. Blood gives us an insight into many issues pertaining to an individual’s health status,” said Chosamata.
The three experts also answered participants’ questions on blood, among them why, on average, women have 4.8 litres of blood while men have 5.7 litres. The other questions hinged on intervals between one blood donation and another.
M’bawa said women have, on average, less blood than men due to issues such as menstruation. He, however, added that people’s blood volumes also varied with one’s height and body weight.
Chosamata said, on the other hand, that medical experts recommend that men donate blood after three months while women are given four months- again, due to menstruation issues.
This forced one participant to loudly suggest that men should be having their own monthly periods as well in order to level the playing field.