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Uganda Red Cross Partners with Bunyoro Kitara kingdom to address blood shortages in the Oil region

In an effort to combat the persistent blood shortage in Uganda’s oil-rich region, the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has embarked on a blood donor recruitment campaign in collaboration with the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.

Uganda Red Cross Society, through a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health, works closely with the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS) to mobilize voluntary blood donors across the country.

Sarah Mutegombwa, URCS's Program Manager of Blood Donor Recruitment, stressed the need to educate local communities on the importance of blood donation.
Sarah Mutegombwa, URCS’s Program Manager of Blood Donor Recruitment, stressed the need to educate local communities on the importance of blood donation.

According to the WHO, Uganda has an annual blood target of 1% of the country’s total population. Uganda has 40 Million people and therefore aims at mobilizing 400,000 units of blood annually.

However, the population that donates in the country is way below the total target. Uganda Red Cross Society has since come up with innovative ways of bringing on board new voluntary blood donors. in 2020, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the country was affected by a huge blood shortage that has since left many lives at risk. Uganda Red Cross Society in 2021 joined hands with the Buganda Kingdom and took the blood drives to the community level. The Buganda Kingdom counties have been a source of blood that has been distributed to all regions in the country over the last 2 years. In a bid to grow the bloodstreams, Uganda Red Cross embarked on a drive to engage other Kingdoms and chiefdoms (Cultural institutions) to mobilize blood donors.

Through a high-level strategic meeting held between the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom leadership led by the Prime Minister, Mr. Andrew Byakutaga, Uganda Red Cross senior leadership tabled the blood scarcity challenge that posed a great threat to the Kingdom and the entire Bunyoro region. The Kingdom expressed positive feedback and organized for a high-level stakeholders meeting on 13. October, 2023.

This pivotal stakeholder engagement took place at the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom (BKK) Plaza, in Hoima City and it was graced by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom’s leadership, led by Minister of Production, Wilson Wairindi, representing the Kingdom’s prime, Mr. Andrew Byakutaga.

URCS was represented by Irene Nakasiita, Director of Communication, Resource Mobilization, and Partnerships, along with Ms. Sarah Mutegombwa, the Program Manager – Blood Donor Recruitment.

Nakasiita emphasized URCS’s essential role as an auxiliary body to the Government of Uganda, working in tandem with UBTS to ensure a consistent supply of safe and adequate blood for transfusion throughout the country. She also highlighted URCS’s unique approach to blood donor recruitment, which focuses on “Taking blood donation to the community” as part of addressing blood shortages in the country.

“This started during the COVID-19 lockdown when it practically became impossible to attract blood donors due to the effects of COVID-19. So, we need to work together as stakeholders and engage people in our communities to donate blood. Our desire is to reach the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom communities and engage voluntary blood donors, which will help us stock the regional blood bank here in Hoima which serves the entire Bunyoro sub-region.” Nakasiita emphasized

Sarah Mutegombwa, URCS’s Program Manager of Blood Donor Recruitment, stressed the need to educate the community about the critical importance of voluntary blood donation. Despite the urgent demand, she revealed that blood donation levels remain low, with only 313,975 units collected out of a targeted 450,000 units in the 2022-2023 financial year. The Bunyoro region requires 20,000 units of blood annually, but only 14,800 units were collected during the same period. Once the regional blood bank becomes operational, approximately 50,000 units annually will be required.

“Urgent efforts are required to improve blood donation to prevent this vital facility from becoming underutilized because if we don’t raise the amount of blood required, the machines will be running on low capacity.” Mutegombwa – Uganda Red Cross Blood Donor Recruitment Manager.

Expressing his gratitude on behalf of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, Wilson Wairindi, the kingdom’s Minister for Production, appreciated URCS for initiating this proactive and strategic partnership. He also emphasized the Kingdom’s commitment to mobilizing its subjects to actively participate in blood donation drives. “The kingdom leadership is ready to mobilize its subjects to see that they embrace blood donation drives to save the lives of children, mothers, and the victims of accidents,” Wairindi says.

Wairindi also recognized the ongoing population growth due to oil development, which also calls for an increase in Health and social services to the people. Henry Benda, the UBTS team leader for Hoima Blood Collection and Distribution Centre in the Bunyoro region, noted that the partnership with the kingdom was perfectly timed, as students, who are the primary blood donors, are currently sitting for exams and preparing for their holidays.