Combating blood shortage: Dispatch through motorbikes saves lives in Lagos, Abuja

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Every day when a Nigerian goes into medical emergency that requires blood donation, it is often considered a death sentence; albeit misconstrued. The reason is not farfetched when the shortage of (donated) blood in the country is considered, which accounts for the high incident of deaths that would have otherwise been prevented.

At other times, blood may be unavailable where it is direly needed, but available elsewhere even though not in excess, and for logistic reasons, the person whose life depends on it may not get it. The dearth of this essential requirement for mostly accident victims and insurgencies has also contributed to avoidable morbidity especially among women and children.

Availability of blood is again resonating today as the World Blood Donor day is observed, emphasizing blood donation and universal access to safe blood transfusion, as a component of achieving universal health coverage. With an estimated 1.8 million units of blood required in Nigeria, available data suggests only about a quarter of this demand is met annually through donation. Even at that paid donation accounts for 60 per cent of blood donated in Nigeria, family replacements, 30 per cent, while voluntary donation is only 10 per cent.

However, if blood becomes too expensive, the poor will feel the pinch more. It could precipitate a situation where the rich can literally buy life. After all, it is said that life is in the blood.

In Lagos, one start-up is working to change the narrative in timely access to safe blood for those in need of it. Lifebank, which started operating in 2016, acts as a bridge between blood banks and hospitals (for now in Lagos and Abuja). Delivery is done in an unusual way; through motorbikes, the types most people associate with couriers and delivery agents.

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