Checking the unwholesome trade in blood
Blood is regarded universally as essential, vital for sustenance of life, indeed life’s animating force.
The fluid, red in vertebrates, that is pumped through the body by the heart and contains plasma, blood cells, and platelets -, according to Free Dictionary: “carries oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and carries away waste products.”
Although researchers are trying hard to make blood, whatever breakthrough achieved in the process has not been published in any recognised medical journal.
According to the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Ilorin, Professor Abdulwaheed Olatinwo, in a chat with The Guardian in Ilorin, “there is at present no man-made alternative to human blood. However, researchers have developed medicines that may help do the job of some blood parts.”
Perhaps, this development has made some Nigerians to exploit the invaluable use of the arguably most essential human chemistry composition by commercialising it where people in other climes are making voluntary donation of it.
Ilorin, the capital city of Kwara State may just be a microcosm of what exists round the country where some less privileged class sell their blood to make a living.
According to the former Secretary of Kwara State chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Olusola Ajolore: “It is a nocturnal practice all over the nation, but it is good that we are now kick-starting a campaign against it from Ilorin. In actual fact, Ilorin may even be the least affected state capital.
What I expect is a positive response from our National Assembly members via prompt legislation against the dangerous habit.”
Those involved in the vice according to The Guardian investigations are the jobless and those between the age brackets of 30-45 years.
They are ignorant of the inherent hazard in frequent blood ‘donation’.
A laboratory scientist at Upper Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Ilorin, who sought anonymity said: “These blood merchants usually call us every month inquiring whether or not there would be buyers. In most cases, we ignore such calls and lie to them in order to save their own lives too.
“The negative blood is costlier than the positive one. In a specific term, the negative blood which is more scarce to come by is sold for between N9,000 and N11,000 depending on the bargaining prowess of the buyer. The positive one ranges from N5,000 to N6,000.”
A blood seller, Kabiru Mohammed who fled the North Eastern part of Nigeria to Ilorin said his involvement in the vice could not be divorced from alleged failure of the Federal Government to provide adequate protection of lives and property for the inhabitants of the area.
Mohammed, who speaks Hausa fluently said: “God is the owner of life. I need money to eat and if I get it in any legitimate way for my survival is it bad? After all, is it not my blood?”
Another blood seller, Adewale Taiwo, who claimed to be a graduate of a Nigerian university, said he went into “the business due to lack of job opportunities” after his parents had suffered to sponsor his education.
On why he could not look for a private job instead of the blood business, Taiwo said: “I would definitely need capital to start at whatever business I have in mind. But where do I access such fund under the present distressed economy? I had been on this blood business right from the end of my service year, five years ago in one of the states in the Eastern part of Nigeria. I was doing it with the hope of managing my life with it before I would secure a job. But it didn’t work out well.”
Former Chairman Kwara State branch of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mojeed Oderinde cautioned against “monetization of blood in Nigeria”, just as he blamed the Federal government for allegedly “pretending” that such a practice is not in existence in the country.
In his views, former Chairman of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, Emmanuel Ayeoribe urged all the tiers of government in the country to create more conducive atmosphere for job opportunities and encourage more of private business endeavours through some “interventionist system.”
Stressing that for safety reasons, no one should donate blood more than two times in a year, a Medical Consultant with Kogi State University Teaching Hospital, Ayingba, Kogi State, Dr. Rotimi Komolafe explained the health consequences of a breach of the conditions in a chat with The Guardian in Ilorin.
According to him: “There are certain laid down conditions for those who want to donate blood anywhere in the world. For instance, you can’t donate blood more than twice in a year. This is because your bone marrow will be put under stress to reproduce another blood. The beverages we give to donors don’t solve this problem at all.
“Besides, exceeding this recommended practice could damage the kidney, cause anaemia especially into the brain.
Persons below the age of 35 are not usually encouraged to donate blood,” just as he said “pregnant women, breast feeding mothers and menstruating women are also discouraged from donating blood.”
Komolafe, who disclosed that the Human Immune Virus (HIV) could only be detected in the blood three months after its contact, cautioned against frequent blood donations against the medical recommendation and canvassed instead proper screening of blood to avoid transferring of diseases from donor to the recipient.
For the UITH boss, every person has one of the following types of blood. ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘AB’ or ‘O’.
According to Olatinwo, “every person’s blood is either Rh-Positive or Rh-Negative. So if you have type ‘A’ blood, it will either be ‘A’ positive or ‘A’ negative.
“What we are saying medically is that the blood used in a transfusion must work with your blood type. If it doesn’t, antibodies in your blood will attack the new blood and make you sick. Type ‘O’ blood is safe for almost everyone as about 40 percent of the human population has type ‘O’ blood. Those who have this blood type are called, ‘Universal Donors’. Type ‘O’ blood is used for emergencies where there is no time to test a person’s blood type. Those who have type ‘AB’ blood are called, ‘Universal Recipient’. This means they can get any type of blood,” he said.
The don added: “If you have Rh-positive blood, you can get Rh-Positive or Rh-Negative blood. But if you have Rh-Negative blood, you could only get Rh-Negative blood. But it must be noted that Rh-Negative blood is used for emergencies when there is no time to test a person’s Rh type.”
Perhaps, what is needed across Nigeria to stem rampart cases of sale of human blood for economic reasons is encapsulated in the words of Dr. Mike Omotosho, a Pharmacist, a prominent Rotarian leader who was also the Governorship candidate of Kwara State chapter of Labour Party (LP): “Roll out more poverty alleviation programmes for the people, encourage free blood donations as we do in Rotary and provide enough blood banks that are functional across all the states of the federation.”