Egyptian hospitals are facing a blood stocks crisis following a sharp drop in the number of blood donors at a time of increasing demand, say government officials.
According to the Health Ministry, donations have dropped by 50 percent since February in the aftermath of the protests to demand the end of President Hosni Mubarak's regime. The drop comes just as needs have jumped from 1.1 million units last year to an estimated 1.4 million this year.
“The shortage in blood donations is getting really serious,” Abdel Hamid Abaza, assistant health minister told IRIN. “What people need to know is that blood means life and the lack of it means an end to this life.”
Patients say the shortage has pushed up the cost of transfusions. Ehsan Al Sayed, a 20-year-old kidney patient who undergoes multiple kidney dialyses every month, said: “State-run hospitals used to give me the blood for free… Now, these hospitals have no blood to give me.”
She has to buy a blood bag for US$120 for every dialysis session, but she is finding the cost prohibitive, and is currently begging for help from the government and charities. Over 250 patients undergoing kidney dialysis at the same hospital, Imbaba, are in a similar position.
Egypt’s National Blood Centre gives 80 percent of the blood it collects to state-run hospitals, according to the Centre’s deputy chairperson, Nehad Mohamed. The remaining 20 percent is sold to private hospitals. Egypt does not import blood.
The Centre used to send 80 minivans to different places every day to collect blood from donors, but that has changed. “The minivans are no longer able to bring back enough blood,” Mohamed said. “This creates problems in hospitals.” The National Blood Bank has 25 branches; together they used to collect around 2,000 units a day.
“Things are going from bad to worse in most hospitals because of the lack of blood,” said Amal Al Beshlawy, a leading paediatrician at Cairo’s Abulrish Children’s Hospital. “A large number of patients need blood transfusions on a regular basis.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions