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Blood for cash?

By Clarkson Eberu
22 December 2009   |   3:25 am
No illustration of the hard times the average Nigerian is going through can be more vivid than the report that hundreds of the country's citizens are indiscriminately offering their blood for sale. And this is not for humanitarian reasons as the act may first suggest, but purely out of desperation to survive. For example, some adult males in Ilorin, Kwara State have resorted to offering their blood for sale at diagnostic laboratories in the state capital. Some of the donors do this two or three times in a month, raising concerns about their own health and safety. Ordinarily, haematologists encourage people to donate blood, but not at the expense of the donors' well-being. Doctors usually recommend sufficient time for recovery, coupled with intake of rich diet, all of which the poor donors in the reported cases consider a luxury. Many of this underprivileged Nigerians live on cigarettes, alcohol and kolanuts. They often appear pale and unwholesome, thereby posing a health hazard even to the patients who receive the blood that they donate.    

It is heartening in the circumstance, that the diagnostic laboratories subject donated blood to rigorous tests including the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) test, before selling to clinics, hospitals or patients. Beyond this, commercial considerations drive the blood for cash business as the laboratory operators place price tags of between N5,000 and N7,000 on each pint of blood, with the ‘O’ Negative blood said to be more expensive than other blood types.


That many of these donors are unhealthy is alarming. Obviously there is need for stricter regulation of blood donation in the public interest. Diagnostic laboratories need to be better equipped and the various professionals involved in the process must be more diligent.

The Nigerian government and every citizen should be worried about the extent to which economic adversity is driving average citizens to desperate ends. Clearly, the report on the situation in Kwara State applies to other states, as many Nigerians embrace unusual measures to eke out a living.

It is highly regrettable that citizens can be so cynical in a country with so much potential. This is as much a measure of poor governance as it is indicative of the failure of the state. All the persons in positions of responsibility – federal, state and local – should be ashamed of their poor performance that has brought citizens to this sorry level.

The average Nigerian may be sympathetic to the plight of other Nigerians, particularly those who need blood transfusion to stay alive, but the average citizen will not ordinarily deprive himself of his own blood irrationally, or risk his life for commercial reasons. That this is happening, purely as a survival strategy, speaks volumes about the tragedy of our circumstances.

More than anything else, Nigerians need to be gainfully employed. Government needs to do a lot more to improve the economy, create job opportunities, reduce poverty and make the environment less harsh. Above all, the health authorities – (federal, state and local) hospitals, laboratories and health workers should ensure that international standards are observed with regard to blood donation and transfusion nationwide. In more civilised societies, blood donation is not open to everybody but the very healthy.

Ultimately, health agencies should develop a wholesome blood bank in hospital, to address emergency blood transfusion. The donation of blood should not be subject to high commercialisation as is currently the case. Privately-owned blood banks should also be carefully monitored to ensure adherence to standards and best practices.