The Easter holiday is upon us once again. With all the joys of the break, it is also a time marred by increased traffic accidents as numerous people take to Harare’s highways to visit relatives in faraway places. Drink driving also spikes as people enjoy their off days.
Holidays such as Easter subsequently increase the demand for blood, and there is often not enough to meet demand during this hectic time. In Zimbabwe the National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) is the sole institution that receives, process, and store donated blood for future use.
Yesterday NBSZ received a donation of $40,000 from one of the country’s biggest mobile phone operators – NetOne Cellular. There was jubilation at the NBSZ centre, as it means that there will be greater availability of blood for transfusions this Easter, and will provide respite for those who would otherwise be unable to pay for the precious liquid in case of accident. Blood costs an alarming $161 per pint in private hospitals, and $135 in government hospitals. The human body contains about ten pints.
There have been many complaints against NBSZ for the fees charged, considering that it is collected from donor for free. Nyasha Hungwe (46) has been a donor since her school days told Harare News as much. “Why do they have to not just sell it back to us, but to charge the exorbitant prices that they do?” she asked.
Harare News toured the NBSZ facility that resembles an operating theatre to find answers. CEO of the organisation Lucy Marowa explained the high fees. She said that processing blood from collection to delivery to patients calls for highly specialised equipment. Blood has to be kept at appropriate temperatures by specialised refrigerators. Marowa pointed out that most of the machines they use are top of the range and require special expertise and maintenance when they break down. Moreover, because they deal with blood, a sensitive element of human life, they need to be cleaned thoroughly and replaced regularly so that no infections manifest. The processes involved in maintenance, laboratory testing, transportation, and storage are all extremely costly.
“We are also concerned about the price, but, we cannot afford to give it out for free because of the costs involved in the production. NBSZ is still facing challenges to breakeven even with the current price in place and yet the organisation has taken it upon itself not to raise the fees for blood any further,” said Marowa.
According to Marowa, NBSZ needs about $9 million annually for it to meet local demand free of charge.
Avoid accidents this Easter break. Don’t drink and drive. To find out how to donate blood and save lives, visit http://www.nbsz.co.zw/.
Photo: An NBSZ worker in the lab in Harare.