Creating an online blood bank
By Lilian Kaivilu
The country is still grappling with the sad news of students who lost their lives in a dorm fire at Moi Girls, Nairobi on Friday night.
While many parents and guardians tried to come to terms with the sudden death of their children, others made efforts to save the lives of the girls who had been badly injured in the incident. Many of them needed blood as part of treatment. According to the World Health Organisation, globally, 74 countries collect over 90 percent of their blood supply from voluntary unpaid blood donors. However, 71 countries collect over 50 per cent of their blood supply from paid donors.
Ordinarily, such situations as school fires or accidents often see people ask for donation of different blood groups.
But in order to save more lives, a Nairobi based initiative, in 2011, devised a way to ensure there is always blood to deal with the urgent needs during such crises. Wanadamu initiative, started in July 2011 seeks to bridge the gap between those in need of blood and blood donors. “We bridge the gap by maintaining a database of willing blood donors across the country who we call upon when someone is in need of their blood group within their location,” explains Evans Muriu, the founder of the initiative.
By February this year, Wanadamu Initiative had attended to 5367 appeals as of 28th Feb 2017 backed with a database of 68975 donors from different parts of the county. What started as a random thought one evening has now become a huge platform where Kenyans can donate blood online after registering their blood group.
Wanadamu Initiative is a convenient platform for potential blood donors who have always wanted to give blood but are unaware of where to do so. This platform gives the donors and recipients an opportunity to register online through a contact form. The donors give their name and blood group. This makes it easy for the members of the Initiative to call specific donors in case of a tragedy. For example, if you register on the portal with blood group A+, Wanadamu Initiative will contact you in the case of an accident or a request for blood group A by a patient. In the online registration, the platform requires the blood donors to provide their names, Facebook address, Twitter handle, email address, specific area of residence and mobile number among other details.
In order to attend to a blood appeal, Muriu says they need full names of the patient, blood group required, number of units, hospital admitted and next of kin contacts. He, however, points out that there are those who do not give full names of the patient citing privacy. “What they do not understand is that it is difficult to convince someone that blood donated at hospital X without a name tag belongs to that person.” Muriu notes that the Initiative only shares patient information to donors who have confirmed they are in a position to donate. “The number of units needed is in most cases inflated. People will tell us to send as many donors as possible. Working with volunteers and handling up to 20 appeals in a day can be tough,” he admits.
Wanadamu Initiative started by reaching out to people on Facebook and twitter. In the first one week, Muriu remembers that over 100 people signed up. “On July 8, 2011, four days after going live we handled our first blood appeal for Avenue hospital. From then, recipients and donors turned ambassadors and shared the gospel. We have never looked back since,” he says.
In order to accommodate more people and those not online, Wanadamu initiative started manual registration during such events as Wamathai Open Mic, street event such hosted by PAWA 254 and companies such as Safaricom, Orange Kenya.
Wandamu initiative has also attended to blood appeals in Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Ghana. “Some hospitals, such as Karen Hospital, also call us on behalf of their patients.”