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Somalia's launches first blood bank in 30 years

Wednesday August 9, 2023

Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre (far right) and other officials launching the new blood bank in Mogadishu on 5 August 2023. PHOTO | SOMALIA MINISTRY OF HEALTH

Somalia has launched a blood bank in Mogadishu, a first for the country in 30 years in what donors said could help the country’s emergency responses.

Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre presided over the launch on Saturday, reviving the country’s collapsed blood ban that had initially been established in 1976 but collapsed in 1991 alongside other state institutions during the civil war.

The new facility, officials said, was formed with support from the United Nations reproductive health agency (UNFPA) and the Swedish government.

Mr Barre described said the new facility is a positive step especially for a country that often requires blood supplies on a daily basis: the impact of attacks by extremist groups such as Al Shabaab.

“We have been struggling with violent incidents and different calamities that often-required blood supplies,” said the Premier addressing a galaxy of officials that included Somalia’s Health Minister Dr Ali Haji Aden and the Country Representative for UNFPA in Somalia Niyi Ojuolape.

Mr Aden told the media that with reestablished blood bank, the country is now in a better position to adequately address emergency situations, focusing on live-saving deeds.

In a statement released by UNFPA, the agency indicated that the blood bank serves as a lifeline in a variety of medical scenarios such as surgeries, trauma cases, and complications during childbirth and the treatment of patients with chronic illnesses.

“The National Blood Bank has a 50-unit-per-day production capacity and a storage capacity of 6,500 units at any given time,” the statement outlined.

This is well considered that it can balance the demand against supply, ensuring that health professionals have immediate access to to safe blood products, thus reducing the risk of preventable deaths.

Both the Somali government officials, UNFPA and the Swedish government said the facility will ensure the availability of life-saving blood products and scale up the country's overall healthcare infrastructure.

The agency’s statement indicated, “It is critical to addressing healthcare challenges, such as maternal mortality rates, access to quality healthcare, and emergency medical services.”  

Dr Yasin Ahmed Nur, a former deputy director of Somalia’s defunct blood bank, who also, attended the launch ceremony of the new blood bank on Saturday said the move reflects a turnaround for the country’s medical response.

On Sunday, Dr Nur told The EastAfrican, the former bank used to produce 10,000 units per year. He recalls that the bank was looted and destroyed by rag-tag militias, forcing him to flee from the residential section of the former bank.

“We used to send trucks with cooling system to seek donations from military barracks, ministries and government offices and educational centres and their likes,” remarked Dr Nur, urging the new bank management to mobilise donors.

“Unlike in the 1970s and 1980s, Somalia has advanced transportation and communication systems, every town having its own airport or airstrip, facilitating blood transportation to needy people,” he added.

The State Minister of Health Dr Maryama Mohamed Hussein said that the ministry and the blood bank’s management will take advantage of the 14 June is World Blood Donor Day to raise awareness.

“We will urge our people to discard the taboo against blood donations. We will take advantage of the opportunity to teach that every year countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day,” remarked Dr Hussein.


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