Safe Blood Supply Crucial to Maternal Health Efforts
Childbirth is a dangerous event. In many countries around the world, the advent of modern healthcare has rendered childbirth much safer than ordinary everyday tasks (driving a car is more dangerous) but only some women benefit from these much needed advancements. Expectant mothers in the developing world face a much higher risk of dying in childbirth than their counterparts in developed nations. While access to emergency obstetric care is an ongoing problem in low-resource settings, those that do receive care are at a disadvantage if they need a blood transfusion as blood supplies in developing countries are often inadequate. In Sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 26% of maternal deaths caused by hemorrhage are directly related to the lack of available blood transfusions. If every woman on the planet had access to safe blood, 150,000 pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided each year. (Schantz-Dunn and M)
The World Health Organization notes that the safest source of blood is from a national system of regular, voluntary unpaid donors whose blood is screened for harmful infections, but the infrastructure needed to meet these needs is lacking in many low-income countries. Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, also has the lowest blood donation rates. In fact, twenty-five African countries collect less than half the blood their population needs. (WHO 2014) When a patient needs blood, the burden is put upon family members who must either donate blood or find a donor, which increases the risk of infections because there is little time for proper screening.
In high-income countries, heart surgery, transplant surgery, trauma and cancer therapy are the most common consumers of blood supplies. In contrast, low- and middle-income countries use blood supplies mainly for pregnancy and childbirth complications and treating severe childhood anaemia. The WHO recommends maternal health efforts include safe blood supplies as a priority. (WHO 2014) Developing national systems of voluntary, unpaid blood donations is a daunting task, but one that has the ability to affect so many lives, from an anaemic child to a new mother with severe blood loss.
1. Schantz-Dunn, J. and Nawal M (2011) The use of blood in obstetrics and gynecology in the developing world. Rev Obstet Gynecol 4: 86–91
2. World Health Organization (2014) World Blood Donor Day 2014: Safe blood needed to save mothers. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/world-blood-donor-day/en/
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