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Blood to Save A Mama: Thousands Take Stand on World Blood Donation Day

June 14, 2013

 “The same people who need change can organise their resources into the power they need to create change…. because that changes the causes of the problem (powerlessness in one form or another) not only the problem.”Marshall Ganz, Leading Change Organizing and Leadership, New Organizing Institute

As this article goes to press, on World Blood Donor Day (WBDD), more than 2,000 residents from across all the six districts of Mara region in Tanzania have donated blood ‘to save a Mama or baby’.

Since preparations for WBDD started back in late-April 2013 more than 5,000 blood units have been collected.

This is an unprecedented achievement for the Tanzania National Blood Transfusion Services. And it is indisputable that the motivation behind the huge turnout of blood donors was to play their part in contributing to maternal survival.

These ordinary Tanzanian citizens have come together under the banner of MamaYe  – a campaign to save the lives of Africa’s mothers and newborns. A campaign that enables Africans like the citizens of Mara region, to “organise their resources into the power they need to create change”.

Above, a young man in Mara region “gives blood to save a mama”. June 2013.

In Tanzania, as in many parts of Africa where maternal mortality rates are high, individuals and communities are often resigned to the inevitability of death in childbirth. Many regard such a fate as ‘God’s will’ or ‘natural’.

MamaYe is a campaign led by Africans and backed by UKAID, determined to empower Africans with evidence and action to reverse these attitudes, and to “change the causes of the problem - powerlessness”.

If the survival chances of African mothers and newborns are to be transformed, then it will be vital for African citizens to be empowered with evidence, but also concrete actions, to both enable that transformation, but also to demand change.

One of the key resources needed to save the lives of African mothers is blood. Severe bleeding during pregnancy, delivery or after childbirth can occur for many reasons and is the most common cause of maternal mortality in Africa. Severe bleeding contributes to the deaths of around 34 percent of African women – (that is, more than 50,000 women). Of those women who died, an estimated 26 percent are directly related to a lack of blood. That’s more than 14,000 women who could have been saved. 

Click the image below to view the infographic on why blood saves mothers and babies in Africa.

We know that blood can save lives. For example, in 2004, when safe blood became available, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre saw their maternal mortality rate due to pregnancy complications fall by more than 50%.

Blood supplies in Africa have never been able to meet the demand. The reasons for the lack of blood supply and availability of transfusions are varied and include poverty, lack of government commitment, lack of donors, logistic failures, socio-cultural misconceptions and ignorance.

WHO estimates that at least 10 whole blood units per 1,000 population are needed to be collected annually in resource-limited settings.

In Tanzania only 2.1 units were collected per 1,000 population in 2010 by their National Blood Transfusion Services (NBTS).In Nigeria, far less was collected by their NBTS in 2010 – a mere 0.2 units per 1,000 population. In Malawi, an estimated 3.1 units per 1,000 population were collected in 2011 across the whole country.

That is why today MamaYe is working with the Tanzanian National Blood Transfusion Service in Mara, to mobilise citizens to organise their limited resources into the power they need to save the lives of Tanzania’s mothers and newborns. 

Above all to make a difference: to change apathy into urgency and fear into hope.

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