How Nigeria’s First Online Blood Bank, Haima Health Initiative is Saving Lives
In Nigeria, the rate of the incidence of the sickle cell gene is quite high, about 150,000 children are born with the condition and most likely, about 100,000 of them die before they are 5.
Due to a personal experience with sickle cell and the passion to make an indelible mark on her immediate society, Bukola Bolarinwa a qualified lawyer and a sickle cell advocate was inspired to mitigate the prevalence of sickle cell and also to improve the blood donating culture in Nigeria. She founded Haima Health Initiative in 2015, a youth led organization that is building a network of voluntary blood donors for safe, affordable and quick access to blood. Their mission is to save lives in Nigeria by building a digital network of voluntary blood donors, using simple technology.
After noticing the chronic shortage of blood that plagues the healthcare sector in Nigeria, She started by working with her family and friends to donate to sickle cell patients, but the demand kept rowing and she decided to make the service available to all patients in need. Bolarinwa identified the fact that lack of blood causes needless trauma to patients, increasing expenses and sometimes death and she decided to work to create the largest online blood register in Nigeria to connect blood donors to all patients for free.
The main aim of the initiative is to improve donor culture in Nigeria through advocacy and education as a platform to link patients to blood donors and to encourage the culture of voluntary blood donations in young people.
These donations are in various methods and each of the methods holds a unique power to save lives, they include: Whole blood donation, Double red cell donation, platelet donation and plasma donation among others.
Haima is the Latin name for ‘Blood’ and the Haima Health Initiative uses digital technology to get blood to people who are in dire need using a mobile and web platform that connects voluntary blood donors with patients, using real-time data and GPS. They have an online database which allows people to register as voluntary blood donors that can be called on in emergency situations.
They currently have about 1000 registered donors across 8 states in Nigeria who have donated over 300 pints of blood free of charge directly to patients. The goal is to increase the number of voluntary blood donors and create a culture of donation devoid of superstition especially amongst young persons.
Without a centralized virtual blood bank, people who need blood transfusions lose their lives and blood costs a lot of money as well, with one pint currently costing more the Nigerian monthly minimum wage (20,000 Naira or $50). Patients often have to rely on family members for donations, but that is not always possible. Bringing an end to the problem of blood supply, the initiative has conducted about 780 successful blood donations, 1500 registered donors and currently partners with 30 organizations.
At the moment, the Initiative is relentless in its quest to revolutionize the country’s blood supply system and they are currently constructing an uber-like-app to match donors to recipient. Social media including, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are also widely used to send out emergency blood requests and to encourage people to sign-up as voluntary blood donors.
They plan to fully launch their mobile phone app across the whole of Nigeria. Chiedozie Nwafor said, “Our target is that within the next decade- we must have revolutionized the blood supply chain system in Nigeria.”