Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) Agency is deploying technology to lock out cartels from blood banks. This comes amid an acute shortage of blood as cartels engage in the illegal sale of blood.
The illegal blood business is to blame for the shortage with Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe accusing cartels of draining Kenyan blood banks. Reports exposed that Kenyan blood was being sold abroad, mostly in Somalia by cartels from the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) and the Ministry of Health.
Kenya requires between 500,000 to one million units of blood annually, yet collects only a quarter or less of that volume. On daily basis, Kenya needs a minimum of at least 1,500 units, and ideally 3,000 units a day to be more stable.
Blood collection was largely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Kenya was only able to collect 250 units daily down from the 450 units pre-Covid-19. Donors’ withdrawal also slowed down blood collection.
KNBTS Agency, which is tasked to ensure the provision and adequate availability of safe blood is rolling out a new technology system. The system is aimed at sealing loopholes exploited by cartels to siphon donated blood from banks.
KNBTS boss, Dr. Nduku Kilonzo said the Agency has a technological three-phase approach to account for every pint of blood donated in the country.
The first phase of the vein-to-vein system involves a web-based plan to track how much blood is collected daily and used from the collection.
The second phase will have the web-based system installed in all facilities collecting blood in the country.
The third phase will have the deployment of a complete system that includes tracking blood bags using a commodity tracker.
This will give each blood bag a smart identification number to enable the tracking from the issuing station to the requisitioning facility, all along providing real-time reports.
Dr. Kilonzo said that once blood is taken and put in a bag, the bag will be traced via technology by knowing where it was issued and the recipient it was given to.
Kenya currently has 31 blood collection centres spread across the 47 counties with six Regional Blood Transfusion Centres in Nairobi, Embu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu, and Mombasa.
The KNBTS boss is looking to have the complete system running in six months.
Kenya’s blood donation is way below the World Health Organisation requirements for donor proportion relative to the total population.
The blood Agency has been grappling to meet the rising needs for more blood Kenyans. The units of blood stored by the agency fell to a three-year low of 155,600 pints in June 2019 against the demand of one million units.
The drop was from 160,000 units in the year to June 2018 and 158,378 units in the prior period. This pointed to a growing shortage of blood in the country.
And according to KNBTS Agency, seven Kenyans require blood every ten minutes and are at risk if it is not available. This translates to 1,008 persons in need of blood daily but only 18 percent of the demand can be supplied.
However, Dr. Kilonzo adds that progress is being made to increase the availability of blood in the country with collection increasing three times between January and March to hit 63,000 units.
The country has around 561 transfusing facilities cut between government, private facilities, and faith-based, all of which receive blood from the KNBTS.