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By Jude Eze

World Blood Donor Day takes place on 14 June every year. The Day was set aside by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise global awareness on the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion.

It is a day to highlight the critical contribution voluntary/unpaid blood donors make to national health systems and to support the national blood transfusion services, blood donor organizations and other nongovernmental organizations in strengthening and expanding their voluntary blood donor programmes by reinforcing national and local campaigns.

In this year's World Blood Donors Day (WBDD), a presentation to mark the day was made among the Medical Laboratory Scientists in Federal School of Medical Laboratory Science, Jos by the National Leader of Voluntary Blood Donors Club of Nigeria and a Chief Medical Laboratory Scientist, MLS Obeta Uchejeso. He stated that the theme for WBDD 2022 is “Donating blood is an act of solidarity; Join the effort and save lives” with the specific objectives which includes: appreciating blood donors in the world and creating wider public awareness on the need for regular, unpaid blood donation.

He highlighted the need for committed, year-round blood donation, to maintain adequate supplies and achieve universal and timely access to safe blood transfusion; recognize and promote the values of voluntary unpaid blood donation in enhancing community solidarity and social cohesion; and raise awareness on the need for increased investment from governments to build a sustainable and resilient national blood system and increase collection from voluntary non-remunerated blood donors.

Obeta described that Cord blood is gotten from umbilical cord (connecting tissue between foetus and mother in the uterus) that is collected after delivery. Cord blood can be used as an alternative to bone marrow which can be transfused in cases of haemoglobinopathy and other disease conditions for restoring immunological dysfunctions. In the global picture, cord blood stem cells has shown that over 80 diseases can be cured using it, after over 50,000 transplants were successfully done, in this regard. Notably, Cord blood provides relief for inherited haemoglobin variant disorders (haemoglobinopathies) which includes but not limited to HbS and HbC variant haemoglobin molecules as seen in Sickle cell disease, beta thalasemias, compound beta and HbE thalasemias; and some form of non-deletional alpha thalasemias which are rampart in Nigeria.

It is obvious that medical tourism, seeking relief from these disorders will persist in Nigeria if cord blood banking services is not started as soon as possible in Nigeria, the expert stated. He pointed out that Blood banking services has existed in Nigeria for ages for the purposes of transfusion services but the major challenge is that the whole or blood fractions used cannot fill the gaps that could have been filled with cord blood. Therefore, the effort of the National Blood Service Commission shall be incomplete without interest in Cord Blood Banking (CBB) services in Nigeria.

The Scientist challenged all Medical Laboratory Scientists to research further towards a good alternative for the commencement of Cord Blood Banking Services in Nigeria with particular challenge to the National Blood Service Commission when he posited “National blood service commission (NBSC) is standing as a blood bank to other blood banks in Nigeria. Therefore, it is not just enough for NBSC to be relying on whole blood for Nigeria but see blood apharesis and cord blood banking services as a necessity in the current healthcare practice in Nigeria.”

Uchejeso enjoins all Nigerians whether a professional or non-professional, to be voluntary blood donors towards safe blood practices in Nigeria.

NBSC is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry Of Health. It was established in 2004 by the Obasanjo-led government to bridge the yawning gap between demand for, and supply of, safe and quality blood (and blood products) in Nigeria.

Its genitive incipience was a product of a meticulously thought out plan to make safe blood and its derivatives available for all who need blood transfusion anywhere in Nigeria. This followed a survey carried out a year before, which showed an annual blood demand of 1.5million pints, with a supply of 0.5million exposing a deficit of 1.0million pints nationwide. And what this means was that over one million Nigerians die annually due to the inability to access blood for transfusion. And so NBSC was conceived and born with over 15 state offices to fix this.

In reference to the above foundational philosophy of NBSC, Obeta advised that the commission maximize its potentials in the area of Cord blood banking. Kind regards! NNL.

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