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Calls for donations as blood reserves run low

The South African NationalBlood Service's premises in Berea.
The South African NationalBlood Service's premises in Berea.
Image: Mark Andrews

South Africa is running low on blood supply.

The SA National Blood Services (SANBS) said their blood reserves have been affected as donations units have dropped significantly due to the country's lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Though donor blood is not required to treat coronavirus related cases, blood transfusions are needed for trauma and organ transplant patients.

Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the SANBS should take extra measures to “reach out” to their regular donors.

“The SANBS should change the ordinary way of doing things and find ways to reach out to donors during this lockdown period. People may be reluctant to leave their homes to go and donate blood,” said Kupelo.

He said hospitals across the province had seen some positive results from the lockdown.

“There's been a significant drop in trauma cases and in forensics since the start of the lockdown. The dispatch of ambulances has also dropped while emergency calls have dropped by 40%,” Kupelo said.

Recently, the SANBS sent communication to all its donors, assuring that blood donation during the Covid-19 outbreak would be safe.

The organisation's Dr Pheello Lethola said the drop in blood donations was anticipated yet was a cause for concern.

“This was anticipated given the situation we are in. However, the drop in the amounts is quite significant. Normally, we need to operate with a five-day stock level to know we have enough blood for patients. Now, the stocks have dropped to less than three days,” said Lethola.

She said every day SANBS requires over 3,300 donations to meet patients' demand across the country.

The blood service said it implemented measures such as screening of all people at donation clinic entrances, delaying the donations of donors who exhibit flu-like symptoms and heightening control measures at blood donation clinics through the provision of alcohol hand-rub solutions at each clinic entrance.

Eastern Cape donor clinics which will remain open for donations include two in East London, one in Mthatha and two in Port Elizabeth.  

On Friday, SANBS released a statement calling on people to donate blood.

“With everyone homebound, blood donations are only trickling slowly in yet we still have many lives to look out for, lives that need saving during this period. We have made several appeals and the reception has been encouraging, this far.

“Taking a look at social media, one can see that South Africans have been so creative and the lockdown content we have seen has been very entertaining,” it read.

The SANBS then created a song titled Gaz'lam which was originally recorded by platinum selling singer Amanda Black and celebrated singer Vusi Nova.

The statement said the #GazlamChallenge was an indoor activity that promoted mass participation through social media.

“The exciting #GazlamChallenge launched on social media on April 1 driven by a few celebrities and influencers, to encourage others to go out and donate blood during the lockdown. Kicked off by Xolani Mayekiso, some of the more notable faces who joined the challenge were Phelo Bala, Sifiso Khanyile and Lucia Mthiyane, sharing their unique renditions of the song,” it read.

Social Media users can join the campaign by posting a video rendition of the Gaz'lam song using the hashtag #GazlamChallenge.

Lyrics to the song can be found on SANBS social media platforms.


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