The Central Blood Bank Society (CBBS) is literally a life-saving institution in Gaza. Its motto – “From Heart to Heart” – aptly sums up its mission to encourage people to donate blood to help others survive.
“The Bank, with branches in Rafah and Khan Younis, plays a key role in the community with limited resources but it suffered from old and out-dated lab equipment and refrigerators, which badly affected their ability to serve the community,” said Dr. Mostafa El-Ghosiene, ANERA’s Gaza manager of the in-kind donation program.
During the bombardments in 2009, the Bank provided blood when it wasn’t available in local hospitals and clinics. CBBS Director Dr. Nahed Abu Asi remembers the difficult time. “People were not able to leave their residential areas. We ordered five shipments from the National Blood Bank of Jordan but we had a major problem with blood storage.” The blood Bank received 100 units of blood and 1,000 units of plasma and had to store the shipment in huge supermarket ice cream refrigerators. “It was the only option and it helped us save lives,” he explained.
Thanks to a generous $100,000 donation from the National American Arab Medical Association (NAAMA), ANERA was able to deliver much-needed equipment to the Bank, including refrigerators, refrigerated centrifuges, an electric sealer, chemistry analyzer, Eliza reader, CBC machine, water bath and micro-plate washer. With the donation, the Bank has increased its blood storage capacity and laboratory services.
“It makes a tremendous improvement to what we can provide in terms of developing the capacity of the laboratory and the Bank itself,” said Dr. Nahed. The Khan Younis and Rafah branches each received a refrigerator, which doubled their blood storage capacity from 150 to 300 units.
Staff has also upgraded the cleanliness of operations with the electric sealer, replacing manual closure of blood bags. “The staff used to tie the tube of the blood bag, which increased the risk of contamination,” said Dr Abu Asi.
The Bank conducts numerous tests to make sure donated blood is free of critical viruses like HIV, HCV and HBSAG. For more than a decade, the staff did the testing manually, which took an hour to complete. Thanks to the Eliza reader, they can conduct tests on 60 blood units in just 15 minutes.
Since 2004, the Bank stopped the public lab testing because of the deteriorated equipment. With the new donations, they can now offer testing and analysis services at very low prices. A glucose test at the blood Bank, for example, costs 5 NIS ($1.40), compared to 15 NIS ($4.25) elsewhere. Dr. Abu Asi explains, “The low cost of tests benefit people in need and the Bank still can generate enough income to cover operating and maintenance costs.”
Director Abu Asi says the centrifuge, which separates blood, is one of the Bank’s most beneficial additions, “During an emergency here in Gaza, we treat bleeding patients who are in need of certain content of blood or plasma. If we give the patients a whole unit of blood, it could make the condition worse.”
Looking to the future with renewed confidence, Dr Abu Asi says the ANERA contribution has a long-term impact on the community. He says Central Blood Bank Society plans to open a training facility for local medical students and conduct health information campaigns for the local community to increase awareness about the benefits of the blood Bank’s services.