Shutdown leading to failure in organizing donation camps, voluntary donors unable to donate because of lack of public transport
Major blood transfusion centres in Dhaka are running dry because of the ongoing nationwide shutdown that has been in place since March 26 to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The shutdown, enforced in March, has been extended multiple times till May 30, where public transport has been banned and people have been asked to stay home.
There was already a crisis during March, and it deepened further when the month of Ramadan began in April, as many people avoid donating blood due to fasting, said operators of top blood transfusion programs.
The shortage is causing distress among patients, particularly for people suffering from cancer and thalassemia.
Thalassemia is a blood disorder in which red blood cells cannot survive and patients have to get regular transfusions to lead a healthy regular life.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune on Monday, Dr Moniruzzaman, coordinator of voluntary blood donation program at Quantum Foundation, said the number of blood donors is decreasing gradually, and the trend may get worse if the crisis continues.
“The situation is dire for people with negative blood groups and for patients with thalassemia. If the shutdown due to Covid-19 continues, we will be in crisis,” he added.
The foundation has collected 5,057 units in January, 4,229 in February, 4,195 in March but it dropped to 2,914 in April because of the shutdown.
On the other hand, the foundation delivered 8,494 units in January, 7,939 in February, 7570 in March; but it was 4,676 in April, a 38% drop from the previous month.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Bangladesh requires 1-1.1 million bags of blood every year.
Patients with Thalassemia struggling to manage donors
Shahed Mehbub, father of a five-year-old boy who is a thalassemia patient, dreads the bleak days ahead, as acquiring blood for regular transfusion is becoming increasingly difficult due to the shutdown enforced across Bangladesh.
“I used to manage blood from near ones, but many of the fixed donors are failing to donate as most people are now staying home for safety,” said Mehbub, who works at an international development organization.
“I am managing the transfusion at home because of possible risk of exposure to Covid-19 for both the donor and my child,” he added.
His son received his last transfusion of blood - B-positive - on April 25 after managing transportation for the donor and the next date is May 20, but Mehbub is unsure if any donor will agree to come for the donation.
Bangladesh Thalassemia Foundation Adviser Dr Aminul Islam told Dhaka Tribune that fear of Covid-19 transmission, lack of transportation because of shutdown, and failure to organize blood donation camps are leading to a crisis for patients.
“Most donors are bringing their own donors because of unavailability of blood” he said.
According to him, usually 60-70 patients used to have a transfusion at their foundation every day, but it has come down to 20 as only those in critical condition are coming for transfusion.
Red Crescent introduced mobile bus service
Dr Tarek M Hussain, director of blood program at Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, said most of their blood donations are received from outdoor events, but the events scheduled have been cancelled since March due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Blood camps in universities, corporate offices, or banks are major sources of blood collection, but all educational institutions have been closed since mid-March and offices from the last week of March, which has affected the donation program gravely, he added.
Hussain said they have introduced mobile bus service in different areas to boost collection.
“If individuals from an area or institution contact us for donating in a big volume, we will send a team to the area for blood collection,” he said explaining how they are planning to tackle the crisis.
To avoid a crisis Dr Hussain has appealed to voluntary blood donors to donate blood if possible.
The society so far collected 3,615 units of blood - 2,469 via indoor collection and 1,146 from outdoor collection - in between January and April of this year.
The units collected in total were 986 in January, 1,234 in February, and 968 in March. But in April, it was only 427 units, less than half of the collection a month ago.