By Melisa Chatikobo

THE country’s blood bank has been hit by a critical shortage of blood group O as Covid-19 regulations have hindered blood collection.

Blood O group is very important as it is used in emergency situations such as traumatic bleeding or other types of emergency transfusions.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday last week, National Blood Services Zimbabwe (NBSZ) chief executive officer Lucy Marowa said they depend on learning institutions for blood donations and their closure has caused the blood supply to take a nose dive.

“We have a shortage of blood group O because it’s the most common in the population at 52 percent, so when you go into hospitals the majority of patients are also blood group O, hence it moves very quickly and goes into short supply.

“We do get seasonal shortages, particularly when schools are closed since 70 percent of domains come from educational institutions. However, shortages have become almost normal due to Covid-19 over the past two years, with multiple effects of the pandemic causing these shortages,” Marowa said.

Marowa said the deficit of units for the precious liquid has affected service delivery to patients during the recent festive season. “From January to November 2021 we collected around 53 000 units of blood. We distributed approximately 1 200 units during the month of December but this is far short of what should have been distributed.”

 “This is because we were experiencing shortage of blood group O in particular. Currently we have at least three days to seven days’ supply of other groups, but at most one day’s supply of blood group O. This is an unhealthy blood bank status which requires us to continue pushing for more group O donors to come forward and donate.”

She said ordinary Zimbabweans wrongly think that accidents during the festive season gobble up the blood bank yet the shortage is caused by the fact that there are other health conditions which demand more blood supply.

“Different forms of anaemia were the most common conditions, not accidents and trauma as people probably expect. Postpartum haemorrhage is very common and one of the leading usage conditions,” Marowa further told the Daily News on Sunday.

Postpartum haemorrhage refers to heavy bleeding after the birth of a baby. Losing lots of blood can lead to shock or death.

A Unicef-supported household survey report in 2019 indicated that Zimbabwe has the highest maternity deaths. One of the major health complications mentioned is postpartum haemorrhage accounting for the death of women across all ages.

 Marowa dismissed the fear of contracting diseases by some people requiring blood transfusion saying the NBSZ does thorough screening so that such situations do not occur.

“One can get infected with a number of transfusion transmissible infections, which is why blood undergoes rigorous testing prior to being released for use. We currently test for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV in our country as these are transmissible by blood,”Marowa said.