Source: Redwood Times

Eurea, California:  Rotarian Tom Schallert, Administrator of the Northern California Community Blood Bank in Eureka, has taken two trips to Nigeria with the Rotary sponsored  Safe Blood Africa Project (SBA) to help establish and improve blood donation centers. Quoted by Redwood Times, Tom Schallert as guest speaker at  Garberville Rotary Club told about the Safe Blood Africa Project.

The Safe Blood Africa Project (SBA) is a Rotary cooperating organization. SBA coordinates Rotary International World Community Service Projects in Africa involving one or more Rotary clubs in Africa and one or more Rotary clubs in the United States or elsewhere in the world.

SBA’s mission is to enable and support establishment of voluntary blood donor programs in areas of Africa where blood is not readily available from blood banks. Using SBA funds, Rotary club donations, Rotary District grants and Rotary Foundation matching grants, SBA procures and arranges for delivery and startup of a blood storage refrigerator with temperature monitoring and a backup generator to a publicly owned community hospital.

Each hospital is vetted in advance by the sponsoring African Rotary club(s) for its ability and willingness to support both the required blood testing and establishing and sustaining a voluntary blood donation program locally. These blood storage facilities enable the hospital to obtain and store blood in advance of the need, making it possible to properly type, test for contaminants and store the blood safely.

Following installation and startup of the equipment, the African Rotary clubs support the hospitals in establishing ongoing voluntary blood donations in the local community to help create a supply of safe blood for emergency needs, primarily women in childbirth, children suffering from malaria and other tropical diseases and victims of accidents.

In many parts of Africa blood is only available for emergency needs from paid donors, since blood storage capacity is extremely limited. In addition to the difficulty of finding and confirming the correct blood type, use of blood from paid donors often results in the transmission of blood borne diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, malaria and other tropical diseases.

SBA solicits U.S. tax deductible contributions from individuals and organizations other than Rotary to enable growth and expansion of the services we provide, including training for hospital blood technicians and for administrators of voluntary blood donation programs.

Schallert said in almost all of the medical facilities he visited the conditions were very primitive to say the least. Hospitals are not equipped to for blood donations and don’t have the equipment needed, the rooms, and safe storage is a major issue.

Most blood donations are solicited by the patient’s family members and often the costs involved are paid by the patients. The demand for blood is three times greater than the availability.

Schallert spoke about a very young Nigerian girl with malaria who needed a blood transfusion to save her life but none was available. Her father was not available and her mother didn’t qualify as a donor. He said this is the norm, rather than the exception.

Schallert and his team attended a local church service with a very large congregation. When asked if they would be willing to become blood donors, most of the people raised their hands.

Another evangelical church was over one-quarter mile long inside and held thousands of parishioners. Schallert said it’s not a matter of available donors. The main problem stems from the fact that there are no facilities or transfusion committees in place to handle them.

He showed photos of stacks of blood and plasma that had to be thrown away before it could be used because of improper storage and handling. The Eureka Rotary Club has donated refrigerators to help keep the blood and plasma at the correct temperatures. And, there is a great need for equipment and trainers to instruct others in the safe donation, handling and storage of the blood. He said much of the medical equipment at these hospitals is not in working order and the conditions are unsanitary with cross contamination and dirty floors, counters, exam tables, etc.

He remarked that just a half-mile down the road from a very poor and sparsely equipped hospital, Shell Oil Co. had a top-of-the-line medical facility that had an overabundance of blood available. In fact, they often dispose of it when it expires before it can be used. Schallert’s team approached Shell and worked to bring the two facilities together to communicate with each other. Now Shell is giving blood to the local hospital to be used.

Schallert said the biggest problem is communication between the government, the medical facilities, and the thousands of possible donors. He said it was a very tense atmosphere and the team was not allowed to go anywhere without at least one armed guard if not two. He said it is imperative to gain the support of the various tribal leaders, most of whom are extremely well educated.

 

FOOTNOTES: 

Contact:  Tom Schallert at tomschall@aol.com.

If you would like more information about the Safe Blood Africa Project check them out at www.safebloodafrica.org.