Blood is crucial to saving the lives of mothers and babies. Around one third of maternal deaths in Sierra Leone are caused by haemorrhage or heavy bleeding. Many of these deaths can be prevented with a safe and sufficient blood supply.
Every year, 14 June is World Blood Donor Day. This is a day set aside by the World Health Organization to celebrate voluntary blood donors and recognise their life-saving contribution to society.
Dr Samuel Baker, Programme Manager of the National Safe Blood Transfusion Service in Sierra Leone, explained to MamaYe why voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors are so important.
Blood is not the kind of commodity you buy from a pharmacy or drug store. People donate their blood to save lives.
This year in Sierra Leone, the importance of a sufficient supply of safe blood is clearer than ever. Convalescent whole blood and convalescent plasma therapy have helped to treat Ebola cases and blood is playing an important role in developing potential treatments to protect against a similar Ebola epidemic.
Dr Baker said that the number of voluntary blood donors has declined overall since the Ebola outbreak, but blood donations are now starting to pick up again. He hopes that the outbreak will encourage leaders about the need for a blood transfusion centre.
The World Health Organization is appealing to the world to:
Give freely, give often. Blood donation matters.
This is very timely in Sierra Leone and you never know when someone close to you will need blood. As Dr Baker says:
You give blood, you save lives…Blood is life.