There is a chronic shortage of blood throughout the world, particularly in developing countries like Haiti. According to the Red Cross and World Health Organization, developing countries only collect around 40 percent of the world’s blood donations, despite accounting for 80 percent of the world’s population.
Safe blood is an ever-pressing need in the developing world. As roads and infrastructure improve, for example, hospitals like HAS are seeing an increase in the number of traffic accident victims requiring transfusions. Add to this the blood needed in other medical emergencies and for patients requiring surgery, and it is easy to see how dire the situation can be.
In Haiti, 14 blood blanks serve the needs of more than 10 million people. HAS operates one of these invaluable resources. We deal with the same challenges as other blood banks around the world – namely, not enough donors to meet rising demand. But we also face challenges that are unique to the developing world. Some blood that we collect in the hospital and through mobile clinics is unusable due to infections like hepatitis, malaria, and HIV. Many school-aged children are anemic and therefore their blood is unusable.
To maintain a steady supply of blood, we perform mobile collections throughout our service area. We also require that a friend or family member make a donation when a patient undergoes elective surgery, even if the operation does not require a transfusion. Despite these efforts, supply sometimes falls short of our needs. According to Angeline Joseph, a blood bank nurse, “Last dry season (winter/spring), we had a lot of unusable samples. If we had eight patients who needed blood, we sometimes had to hope we could find eight bags of appropriate blood.”
But our biggest challenge is overcoming misconceptions about donation. As Raymona Cadet, a blood bank nurse with HAS since 1999, notes, “There is a myth in our culture that says when you are giving up blood, you are giving up your soul, your strength. People need to be educated for them to accept to give blood.” Other people worry that collected blood is sold and not used in the hospital. The most powerful tool at our disposal is education. It is through increased education and public awareness that a sea change will take place. We need to overcome the barrier of misconceptions through more targeted public awareness.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
In honor of World Blood Day, consider making a donation to HAS to help fulfill the blood bank’s greatest needs. The blood bank needs funding for:
- Staff so the collection room in the hospital does not have to close during mobile clinics
- Public awareness campaigns
- In-school education
- A large refrigerator to store juice for donors
- A fan for the donation room