Accra: Fight For Survival, Trading Blood Booming At Korle Bu

It appears the high rate of unemployment is pushing the poor and jobless youths to engage in all kinds of weird and illegal means of making money. One of such means is the zeal to donate blood to patients who need them for various sums of charges.

One of these persons who have been at the centre stage of this weird business is one young man, Eric Bimpong who always has a money-making proposition: sell Your blood.

Bimpong spends his days outside schools, bars and on the streets of poor neighbourhoods in Accra, looking for teenagers and people in their 20s to give blood and make some money for themselves.

Bimpong, though, is unconcerned about the impact of his business. A man has to make a living, he said as he sat outside a kiosk selling drinks and meat pies to nurses and patients at Korle Bu.

“This country is hard. No work,” he said.

More than 42% of Ghana’s unemployed are aged 15 to 24 and just under a quarter of the Population of 26 million live below the poverty line of 3.60 cedi or $1 per day. As a result, a young jobless folk like Bimpong finds a ready supply of Volunteers at high schools, drinking spots and in Market places.

“I go to places where I can see people who are not into any serious work,” he told this reporter.

The rate of 0.57 litres of blood is between 100 cedis (about $27) and 120 cedis (about $33). Bimpong keeps 20 cedis (about $5) for Himself.

Commercial blood donors, as the authorities call them at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, fill a void in a country where blood is often in short supply and cultural and religious beliefs restricted some from donating. When a patient needs blood and the blood banks are empty and family and friends are not available or unwilling to donate, the commercial donors step in for a price.

“In this country, when some people go to the hospital, they don’t want their relatives to know so they hide certain illnesses,” Bimpong said adding that “so they come to us.”

Last July, the medical journal The Lancet Published a study saying that one in almost 3,000 Blood donors in England carry hepatitis E and Those small amounts of the virus had made it into blood banks. But Bimpong shrugs off concerns about safety. Laboratories should be responsible for screening, he said, adding: “It’s not up to me.” Inside the packed waiting room of the blood centre at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, signs encourage people to Donate every four months.

While their donations likely save the lives of Bleeding patients, public health officials worry sometimes that the donors may end up passing on diseases like HIV or Hepatitis onto the beneficiaries.

“It’s abnormal! We don’t really encourage this kind of donation. Sometimes they don’t even know their blood Group,”
said Stephen Addai, Spokesman for Ghana’s National Blood Service (NBS).

According to him, keeping blood banks stocked remained a big problem adding that the NBS usually relied on students to donate the approximately 250 unit’s per-day of blood used in the southern parts of the country, including Accra.

“We still run short, particularly when students go on holiday that is why the NBS is always raising alarms about blood shortages continuously on radio stations and in newspapers, encouraging people to come out and donate out of their own free will,” he said.

He revealed that during a recent blood donation event at the Accra Shopping Mall, the NBS targeted about 1,500 donors, but quite sadly only just five people donated in the end while the onlookers outnumbered the donors.

“They are afraid of the syringe. They are not aware of the importance of it because of certain beliefs. They’ve heard stories of certain diseases.”

Chronic blood shortages have forced hospital Blood centres to always hunt for blood. When a patient arrives in need of blood and a Hospital has none to offer, nearby clinics are contacted to see if they might have some available and if the clinics don’t, family members are called to come and donate.

“Friends will suffice, too – if they’re willing. If that fails, it Means that the victim will not survive”, Mr. Addai

According to Addai, donated blood is tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis and donors are asked if they’ve been sick with malaria. Despite screening, there have been a number of cases involving contaminated blood in other parts of the world.

From the 1970s on wards, more than half a dozen Countries, including Britain, France, Italy and
Japan, were hit by scandals over tainted blood for Transfusion. The biggest scare was over contamination by the HIV virus.

When a face becomes too familiar, it’s likely that person is a commercial donor, said Victoria Atiapah, a nurse at the centre. “When you see them the first time, they say they’re relatives. But when they come the second
time, third time, then you know,” Atiapah said. Anyone who tries to donate more often than the recommended four months is turned away, she said.

A professor at the hematology department of the University of Ghana, Gabriel Antwi, in an interview said commercial blood donors made up perhaps less than 10% of donors in Ghana. In Nigeria the rate is between 30 and 60%. But Ghana’s rate of hepatitis, which is spread Through blood, is about 15% and a worrying sign, he said, estimating that about 10% of donors have the virus.

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