Religious Institutions Should Promote Blood Donation- Haima Health Initiative

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Haima Health Initiative has called on all religious institutions and groups to leverage their influence to persuade their members to donate blood as part of activities to commemorate Nigeria’s National Blood Donor Day.

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The Federal Government, through the National Blood Commission (NBSC), has designated 8 December as national blood donor day in recognition of the lifesaving service voluntary blood donors render. The day is in addition to World Blood Donor Day, celebrated on 14 June, designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) for global recognition of donors. “This day allows us to commend the essential gift that blood donors voluntarily give and promotes voluntary blood donation as a civic responsibility”, Bukola Bolarinwa, founder of Haima Health Initiative, said.

Every year, Nigeria gets only 27% of its annual blood need, with the NBSC collecting only 500,000 pints of blood every year, leaving a shortfall of about 73.3%. NBSC data shows that only 8% of Nigerians donate blood freely, and 80% of donors donate to relatives in need. This causes needless trauma and loss of lives. There can be no achievement of Universal Health Coverage without access to safe, quality blood and blood products supply across all states.

Thus, it is imperative to assess how various stakeholders can come together to increase advocacy on the constant need for regular and unpaid donors across Nigeria. A major stakeholder that is often overlooked is religious organizations.

“As an NGO focused on improving blood donation in Nigeria, Haima health sometimes calls on voluntary donors in emergencies. Donors may have to suddenly leave their homes, offices or schools to give blood to someone they do not know and are unlikely ever to meet. This type of selflessness deserves unfettered praise. Millions of people today owe their lives to the blood they received from someone. Despite medical advancements, there is currently no substitute for blood for patients in need other than getting it from a donor. This includes accident and emergency victims, women in labour and newborns, and patients with cancer and sickle cell. People with certain conditions like leukaemia and sickle cell may need regular transfusions, often requiring up to six donors at a time,” Bukola Bolarinwa added.

Despite this, several myths surrounding blood donation can be busted by religious organisations as most faithful trust their leadership. Religious organisations in Nigeria are much more than places of worship- they are centres of learning, education and enlightenment for people who often have limited access to information.

Further commenting, Bukola said, “In recent years, religious organisations have promoted civic education, including voter registration and education- this must extend to health education, including blood donation. All stakeholders must get involved in this essential cause, and religious organisations have an outsized influence on behavioural change that must be harnessed. We use today to call on all religious organisations to play their part in advocacy towards saving lives through voluntary blood donations.”

Numerous churches and mosques have organized blood drives with Haima Health, where the NBSC, LSBTS or hospitals come to sensitize the congregation on the importance and process of blood donation. However, more religious organisations need to take up this cause. Most Christian and Islamic groups permit blood donation, and it is often considered a form of charity since it provides a lifesaving gift to someone who is sick.

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