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Cameroon is Bleeding Out

Many patients die in hospitals due to the lack of blood. Michèle Akono’s niece has sickle-cell disease. The three-year-old girl was admitted at the Yaoundé Central Hospital and in urgent need of a 500 mililiter blood transfusion.

Michèle Akono went to the blood bank and she was handed a tube: “We need a blood sample from the patient to run tests”, the nurses said. The results showed that the patient’s blood group was O+. The nurse then explained the procedure: 500ml of blood require at least two donors and the costs are 15,000 CFA francs. “We don’t sell blood”, she added. “The money is for the chemical agents used in testing the blood. Before the transfusion, we need to check that donors are compatible and healthy.” These tests are even subsidised by the state, otherwise they would could more than 50,000 CFA francs.

There wasn’t not enough blood available and Michèle Akono had to look for other potential donors. She donated her own blood to a patient and called the patient’s father. Almost five hours later, Michèle finally acquired the blood and returned to the hospital.

Not enough donors

Although Michèle Akono managed to save her niece, a nurse from the hospital’s emergency services explains that many other patients, “especially accident victims”, die in Cameroon due to the lack of blood. She adds: “We don’t always have the contact details of family members and there is no blood reserve”.

Doctor Thérèse Nkoa, Head of Transfusion Safety at the Ministry of Public Health, reveals that Cameroon does not have a blood reserve because there are no voluntary donors. “Cameroonians do not have the culture of donating blood“, she says.

Rosine Medjo, who has been working as a nurse at the blood bank for four years, shares this experience. “When people come to donate blood, they want some financial compensation in return”. The nurse adds that she has seen many patients refusing to receive a blood transfusion from a stranger. Added to this, is that the frequent power cuts make the conservation of blood difficult.

During World blood donation day some organisations have launched sensitisation and blood collection campaigns, but mindsets are slow to change.

RNW | 19 June 2011 | Radio Netherlands Worldwide (Hilversum)|

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