By Christina Kilowe
While it is true that Malawi is experiencing chronic blood shortage, Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) is exploring new initiatives to ensure the nation obtained the nationally required blood from voluntary blood donors. Recently, MBTS is transnationally directing its focus to villages from companies as well as venturing into partnerships with many stakeholders. For instance, MBTS has now partnered with Malawi Red Cross (MRC), Parents and Child Health Initiative (PACHI), Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and many corporates.
Focusing on village mobilization is a strategic choice which would ensure sustainable availability of blood since blood donors in villages do not operate on the seasonal basis. As an example of a village campaign, here is a story of blood donation from Traditional Authority (T/A) Chikowi.
Within the mild dates of April 10 -14, 2017, MBTS engaged Zomba District Health Office (DHO) to jointly mobilize people to donate blood in T/A Chikowi villages limited to Matache, Chikapa, Dzaone, Mbembesya, Majawa, Mayaka and Lambulira. The process towards the mobilization was, well, simple. It involved meeting the T/A and the Area Development Committee (ADC). The T/A presence symbolizes his endorsement of the activity and the ADC members are there to be trained and support the mobilization. The result? Massive establishment of grassroots structures, though results are low in the first attempt but high in successive activities.
During the campaign, people were sensitised on the importance of blood donation, eligibility for blood donation as well as the process of the same, in preparation for the scheduled blood collection the following week. The aim is to ensure people understand blood donation and blood transfusion issues at the basic level so that they can make informed choices to donate blood.
Allen Kaombe is the Public Relations Officer for MBTS and stated that village campaigns were developed to recruit and retain a sustainable pool of voluntary non-remunerated blood donors. “Previoulsy, we were only collecting blood in secondary schools, colleges, work places, places of worship and open days,” he said, adding that: “ as time went by, we realised age declining in secondary schools and we needed to identify another pool of blood donors.”
The awareness campaign was warmly welcomed by the people in the targeted communities citing it as a good platform for disseminating blood donation information which will enable them in making a decision to donate blood and save lives. In the South of Zomba lies T/A Chikowi and it is also the direction where you can find Group Village Head Majawa, who is very supportive of and bouyant about blood donation. During one of the sensitisation talks, Group Village Head Majawa thanked MBTS for the initiative and wondered why it took MBTS time to come up with such activities in the villages. She encourages her people to donate blood voluntarily by narrating a story of how her grandson’s life was saved by blood transfusion.
Away from the sitted down the tree, a young man plays music during blood donation using the disco. But during mobilization, the system turns into a public address system informing people about voluntary blood donation. It is also used to aid the voice of people who disseminate the information so that the audience can get the message clearly.
In December, a similar campaign in T/A chikowi was conducted from which 62 units of blood were collected. Other campaigns have been conducetd in T/A Lundu and Maseya in Chikwawa, T/A Mwambo and Mlumbe in Zomba, T/A Mlolo in Nsanje, T/A Nchiramwera in Thyolo. Currently, T/A Mwambo, Zomba and T/A Chimaliro, Thyolo community campaigns are targeted.