Uganda reports blood shortages amid coronavirus pandemic

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Aidah Kobusingye, right, gives blood at a blood-donation drive organized by the Rotary club and Uganda Blood Transfusion Services in City Square, Kampala, Uganda Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. Health authorities in Uganda say the supply of blood has sharply declined since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as fewer people donate and schools remain closed. Students, especially those in secondary school, are normally the largest group of blood donors in the East African country. (AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi)

KAMPALA – Health authorities in Uganda say the supply of blood has sharply declined since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as fewer people donate and schools remain closed. The consequences are sometimes deadly.

Students, especially those in secondary school, are the largest group of blood donors in the East African country but schools have been closed since March amid efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

This means the government agency charged with collecting blood is failing to meet its targets.

Dr. Emmanuel Batiibwe, the director of a hospital that looks after many of the poorest residents of the capital, Kampala, cited multiple deaths there in recent months related to blood shortages.

One victim was a woman with pregnancy complications. Children under 5 and patients going into surgery are also among those frequently in need of a blood transfusion, he said.

In July, Batiibwe's China-Uganda Friendship Hospital received only 18 of a requisitioned 218 units of blood. The next month 68 of 217 units came in, he said.

“There's a problem somewhere,” he said, calling the shortage a “disaster."

The head of Uganda Blood Transfusion Services, Dr. Dorothy Byabazaire, told lawmakers earlier this year that her agency collected 56,850 units of a targeted 75,000 between April and July.