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Safe blood for Saving Mothers in Malawi

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A speech by Davrine C Gondwe at 2014 World Blood Donor Day celebrations in Malawi.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

All protocols observed,

I am Davrine C Gondwe, a volunteer of Kuluka charity organization and I am here on behalf of the Kuluka team. Kuluka is a charity organization whose main goal is to make sure that health services are improved and attainable to all Malawians. Kuluka works with different institutions and one of them is the Malawi Blood Transfusion Services (MBTS).

Today the Saturday of 14 June 2014, the Malawi Blood Transfusion Service in collaboration with Ministry of Health (MoH) and Blood Donor Association of Malawi (BDAM) have joined the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international community to commemorate the World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) under the theme: 'Safe Blood for Saving Mothers'

I will just give you a brief history of the World Blood Donor Day.

This was designated an annual event to be commemorated every 14 June by the ministers of health of all WHO Member States at the World Health Assembly in 2005 and is jointly coordinated by four founding partners: the WHO, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations (IFBDO) and the International Society of Blood Transfusion (ISBT) to recognize and honour the people who donate blood voluntarily without expecting any payment in return for the blood they give. So they give blood out of the goodness of their hearts and touch so many lives in the process.

This year's commemorations focus on a very special group of people, MOTHERS. We are celebrating how blood donors save thousands of mothers around the world. Our theme this year puts into perspective just how important it is to have safe blood available in a timely fashion and accessible to all where and when it is needed. According to the WHO, every day about 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications in the world. More than half of these deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa including Malawi. Ladies and gentlemen, the unfortunate reality is that bleeding is one of the most likely causes of maternal death in the majority of healthcare facilities in Malawi.

Timely availability of blood and blood products is most critical as bleeding/ haemorrhaging due to pregnancy complications is capable of claiming lives within just a few hours from the time the bleeding starts. Severe bleeding during delivery and after childbirth can also cause morbidity and long-term disability. These deaths and situations can be avoided if safe blood is readily available.

However, access to safe and sufficient blood and blood products still remains a major challenge for many countries globally including here in Malawi where voluntary unpaid blood donation fails to yield the needed 80,000 whole blood units per year. In line with this year's theme, 'Safe Blood for Saving Mothers' the MBTS in collaboration with our mother ministry, the Ministry of Health and Blood Donors Association of Malawi thought it wise to organize a number of entertaining activities in celebration of our blood donors in Malawi here at Gymkhana Club.

While we are commemorating this World Blood Donor Day, we as a nation must not forget how safe blood saves lives of thousands of mothers in Malawi. As a country we require at least 80, 000 units of blood but our efforts have only managed to yield around 50, 000 units/ year. On average, ladies and gentlemen, MBTS is expected to supply 220 units per day but they only manage to supply around 140 units per day. This situation exists because we have not fully embraced the culture of voluntary blood donation. If the situation continues as it is, we will continue losing mothers as statistics are showing. But this is a situation we have answers for. We just have to hold hands, raise more awareness, support blood donation and become blood donors to make blood available in the hospitals.

You may wonder why we are always talking about blood shortage. It is necessary to do this until we get the message across and things change for the better!

You will be surprised that at least 80 percent of the blood we collect comes from young people especially pupils and college students aged 16 to 25 years. What about those aged from 26-65 years? Why are they not donating blood? This is what you and I need to work hard on. When schools are on holiday hospitals run dry. If people aged 26 years and above were giving blood, we would not have been talking about blood shortage during school holidays.

My appeal goes to media practitioners, you are specially placed and have the capability to inform, influence and motivate the public through various media platforms, we are imploring you to assist by raising awareness on the importance of donating blood. You have been assisting us informing the public and we certainly do not take that for granted, but we have to request more until as a nation are able to meet our national blood needs.

As we celebrate the special efforts made by these special people, the blood donors who spare time and give blood to save lives, we should not forget that as a country we still have a gap. As a nation, we are not meeting the blood needs that we require every year.

Let's hold hands and improve our situation. I also take this opportunity to thank the Kuluka trustees for their support in many ways and amongst these are the promotion materials and financial support.

Thank you all very much for coming. God bless our country and God bless us all.

Thank you!

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