MARAVI POST COMMENTARY
eports that patients who require blood transfusion at Mangochi District Hospital are now forced to buy blood from willing "vendors" because the hospital's blood banks are dry are yet another symptom that Malawi has degenerated into a very sick nation.
According to local media, this abomination has been revealed after a woman who works for Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) Malawi, gave birth last week and needed to have blood transfusion as she had become anaemic.
According to WLSA National Coordinator Seodi White, the woman called her employers asking for assistance in the form of money to buy one pint of blood which is sold at K7,000 by the vendors who offer their blood.
"We were surprised because everybody understands that blood transfusion at government hospitals is free. She called the office asking for some money. Because she was desperate we just gave her K15, 000 to buy at least two pints.
"As I speak now she has been transfused but she is very weak. But this is outrageous. We have decided to sensitise people to understand the need to donate blood," White said.
Minister of Health Public Relations Officer Henry Chimbali confirmed to have been informed of the situation and said the ministry would investigate further. "We have been informed of this situation and what you need to know is that we don't sell blood in our hospitals and if that happened then not to our knowledge. Hospitals are not authorised to do that.
"It may be something that happens well beyond hospital premises or other unprofessional personnel and we cannot rule that out but such blood may not come from our blood banks, they could be other unacceptable arrangements which we are not aware of. We will however investigate," Chimbali said.
He said the ministry was aware of blood shortage in hospitals and said they have made calls for people to donate blood amounting to 80,000 pints, which means 40,000 people donating two pints every year. "We have been informed and due to scarcity of blood, what we do is to ask others to assist at the meantime. When there is blood in the blood bank, the patient receives the blood and when there is need to ask others to assist, we do that as a desperate situation and not as a routine practice. Malawi Blood Transfusion Service is there to mobilise blood for the hospitals and ensure that hospitals have blood," he said.
While one can't fault the ministry headquarters on this one, the exception wouldn't extend to the recent mattress-for-votes deal that the VP and the ministry are alleged to have indulged in – which isn't the subject of this commentary.
What is worrying however is the rate at which the Malawi’s and Malawians’ conscience seem to be corroding. On top of the depravity of selling blood to a person facing a life-threatening medical condition, the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) Executive Director Martha Kwataine had the audacity – with her eyes open – to say that she sees nothing strange, arguing that as long as it is a matter of saving life the whole issue is immaterial.
"We are talking about efforts to save a life here. Since a life has been saved whatever is being said is immaterial," she is quoted as saying by a daily.
We at The Maravi Post have some questions for the erstwhile defender of human rights whom we still want to respect despite her efforts to mutate into a promoter of “blood-vending” as long as a life is saved:
1. How many ordinary Malawians can afford the K7,000 per pint that the vendors are demanding from people who facing the throes of imminent death?
2. Even if they could afford, who will regulate the price of blood?
3. What would stop potential vendors carrying the HIV virus from corrupting our integrity-challenged hospitals to sell blood?
Our advice: If our erstwhile human rights defenders - whom we want to believe they want to mean well - have nothing to say on sensitive issues, their silence on such matters would be golden. There are people out there we still take them seriously, and we wouldn't want such people misled.
Our final question: where is “equity” when a person on his /her death-bed is being coerced at the pain of death to buy blood - a gift of providence - to live because Malawians have sunk so low as to hold anaemic patients at ransom – a practice that human rights defenders “see nothing wrong” with?
Madam Kwataine: Please rethink your stance or else get rid of the word equity from the “Malawi Health Equity Network.” By the way, if this is the best MHEN can offer, wouldn’t the “Malawi Health Entrepreneurship Network be a better fit?
(c) The Maravi Post 2012. Reproduction without acknowledgement prohibited