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COVID-19 shortens Africa’s blood banks by 17%

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Nigeria, 31 others to benefit from Japan’s $39m vaccine grant

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said blood donation fell by 17 per cent in Africa in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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An analysis released yesterday by the global agency showed that blood drive in the region dropped by 25 per cent, while demand dipped by 13 per cent besides suspension of routine surgeries in some countries and observation of fewer people seeking care in health facilities.

The report also discovered that some seven million people needed blood transfusion yearly on the continent.

With the theme, ‘Give blood and keep the world breathing’, this year’s World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) acknowledged the invaluable contributions of blood donors to saving lives and health improvement.

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WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, noted: “Disruptions to the steady supply of safe blood can be life-threatening. We deeply appreciate the selfless, life-saving gesture of blood donors and urge countries to set up and reinforce systems to increase voluntary blood donation.”

The global body is collaborating with the Coalition of Blood for Africa, Organisation of African First Ladies for Development, the private sector and others to improve access to quality blood.

In partnership with Facebook, WHO has established a regional blood donations feature to connect people with nearby blood banks. The tool is live in 12 countries, with over 3.8 million users signed up for notification of donation opportunities.

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MEANWHILE, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), yesterday, said Nigeria and 31 other African and Latin American nations hit by the virus would receive $39 million emergency fund for the development of vaccine cold chains.

In a statement in Akure, UNICEF’s Communications, Advocacy, Media & External Relations Officer, Safiya Akau, acknowledged that the grant was from the Japanese government.

The Officer in Charge, UNICEF Nigeria, Rushnan Murtaza, further confirmed: “The support from the government of Japan complements the work of the COVAX facility, an international vaccine procurement mechanism, working to ensure that people in all countries have quick and equitable access to vaccines.

“With this fund, UNICEF will work with the government to provide cold chain equipment in priority storage sites based on gap analyses, to improve storage capacity for vaccines and facilitate monitoring of vaccine potency.

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“This has a far-reaching impact on the overall goal of the COVID-19 prevention strategy in the country through vaccination, as well as the entire immunisation programme for child survival.”

He continued: “A walk-in freezer room will be installed in each of the selected six states. This includes solar vaccine refrigerators to be installed in 175 wards that have a gap in vaccine storage capacity.

“Temperature monitoring devices will be installed across 18 states’ cold stores and technical assistance will be provided to carry out the set up and maintenance of the equipment and devices. These supplies will ensure the quality of the vaccines.”

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