Zimbabwe's doctors fear spike in maternal deaths over blood shortages

08 June 2020 - 17:15 By Sharon Mazingaizo
Zimbabwe's National Blood Service has temporarily suspended distribution to hospitals due to the shortage of imported consumables such as test kits and blood bags.
Zimbabwe's National Blood Service has temporarily suspended distribution to hospitals due to the shortage of imported consumables such as test kits and blood bags.
Image: 123RF/Sudok1

Patients in need of blood transfusions in Zimbabwe are facing a dire situation, as the country's hospitals face a critical shortage of blood supplies.

Blood transfusions are free at Zimbabwe’s public health institutions, but the country's National Blood Service has temporarily suspended distribution to hospitals due to the shortage of imported consumables such as test kits and blood bags.

Dr Aaron Musara of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors' Association said they had sounded the alarm over the shortages.

“Already our blood supply is critically inadequate, and this is badly affecting maternal health in the country. Severe bleeding during pregnancy, delivery and after childbirth is the single biggest cause of maternal death and, right now as doctors, we cannot offer timely interventions to the pregnant mothers because of the lack of blood.

"Patients in need of blood during surgical procedures are also in danger,” said Musara.

The service supplies blood and related products to at least 46 government hospitals, 14 mission hospitals and 35 private hospitals across the country. The suspension of distribution threatens to create yet another public health crisis.

In a statement, the service's public affairs manager Esther Massundah said the institution was facing serious funding and procurement challenges in importing test kits and blood bags, largely caused by the international travel restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

“Our supply of blood and blood products to health institutions in Zimbabwe is constrained due to shortage of critical imported consumables. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the procurement of these critical items has been delayed,” said Massundah.


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