No fewer than 360 students of the University of Lagos ( UNILAG ) turned out on Wednesday to donate a pint of blood each to sickle cell and cancer child patients.
The donors trooped out in multitudes to donate their blood at the New Hall and Bookshop areas of the Akoka campus where makeshift blood transfusion centres were provided.
The blood donation exercise was spearheaded by Project Smile, a non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital and the Association of Medical Students, UNILAG (AMSUL).
According to the organizers, the joint-project tagged Save 500 Lives is aimed at raising at least 500 pints of blood for sickle cell and cancer child patients in LUTH.
Although, they did not reach this target on Wednesday, the organizers have said that they intend to conduct a supplementary exercise to meet their target.
The organizers explained that the donation exercise was due to the insufficiency of blood reserves in the Hospital’s blood banks.
This issue, however, is not just a reality in LUTH, but it stretches even beyond many hospitals countrywide.
Nigeria’s former minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, in 2013, said that less than 10 percent of Nigerians voluntarily donate blood.
He noted that while 60 percent of the country’s blood donations came from commercial donors, the remaining 30 percent were from family members.
Meanwhile, the Chief Donor Officer, Haematology Department, LUTH, Mrs Mercy Onofomi, acknowledged that the hospital was currently struggling with low blood supply to its reserves.
Onofomi blamed the blood bank supply shortages on lack of voluntary blood donation by Nigerians.
She said, “In LUTH, we use up to 50 pints (of blood), and you can imagine how many days these 500 (blood pints) will last.
“And our blood [bank at LUTH] is not always enough because of the volume of blood we use. We use blood for cancer people, we use it for accidents, we use for obstetrics, that is pregnant women. We have people that live on blood.
“So, the volume of blood we use per day in LUTH is very high, and family cannot replace all.”
She, however, called for more voluntary participation by Nigerians in blood donation exercises.
“You can imagine where one person uses 15 units of blood. How many will the relation replace?
“…How many can their relation donate that will be enough? That’s why we need this kind of voluntary blood donation to really augment the one family replacements donate.
”And in a normal practice, it is not supposed to be family replacement; it is supposed to be voluntary blood donation that they use. So, that’s why this blood [donation exercise] is very important. “
Speaking during the exercise, one of the co-founders of Project Smile and creator of the Save 500 Lives initiative, Oyinda Olayinka, explained the initiative was inspired from an encounter with the sickle cell and cancer child patients at LUTH.
According to the 300 level Medical student, “It started with a Christmas party we had for children with sickle and cancer last year. After the party, we started hearing requests that these children actually need blood.
“So, we thought about what could we do for them? And we came up with this idea: We get people to donate blood, and we give it to them for free.”
“We plan to get 500 pints of blood for 500 people. So, basically, we are saving 500 lives; a pint for a child with sickle cell (or) cancer,” Oyinda Ige, a co-founder and Medical student, added.
Also, AMSUL’s President, Chukwuemeka Agbarakwe, said that the initiative would be organized for the second time within the next one year.
“Considering the passion and the vision that both the organizers and all other stakeholders have kept, it’s an initiative that will continue.
“It wouldn’t even wait till one year to replicate itself,” the 600 Level Medical Student said.
Some of the donors (including first time donors) shared their views about the initiative and the donation exercise.