“One of the vital elements for ensuring patient survival in a crisis is a steady supply of high-quality blood. When you donate blood, you donate for people’s survival.” - Naela, nurse at CBBS
Timely, affordable access to screened blood is essential for providing safe surgical care in Gaza. The blood donation system depends upon three elements: an adequate supply of donated blood, safe practices for blood donation and transfusion, and appropriate regulation to ensure safe, equitable and sustainable distribution.
Dr. Ziyad Chaath, one of the founders and the current head of the Gaza Central Blood Bank Society (CBBS), says that there were major barriers to providing blood equitable and safely in Gaza, but that the situation has improved since the founding of CBBS in 1979. “In the old days, people used to pay to receive screened blood transfusions. It wasn’t cheap. Low-income families struggled to buy blood. Unfortunately, sometimes donors were unknown or untested.”
CBBS, which receives financial donations from a variety of funders, was eventually able to turn the situation around. Still, serious challenges remain.
“It has been a struggle for a long time. In Gaza, limited health resources can create a large gap between people in need of blood and those willing to donate,” notes Dr. Chaath.
An Urgent Need for Blood in Gaza
CBBS is currently in urgent need of additional blood. With increasing incidents on the border and the latest Israeli bombings, they are using triple the quantities of blood bags needed in normal times. During emergency events, CBBS receives calls from major hospitals and clinics, creating high demand for blood donations.
Blood must be available for medical emergencies at a moment’s notice. The bank operates 24 hours a day, ready to send blood out to partner institutions and other branches.
“Before we store blood, we need to get it screened and verified. A label that summarizes the type and testing is attached to each blood bag for safety and efficiency,” explains nurse Naela.
Blood Donations in Gaza as Solidarity
Inside the donation room, one of the blood donor's says, “There is a strong tradition of donating blood in critical situations. It is a concrete message of solidarity.”
Sometimes, the challenge is not in finding willing donors but in obtaining needed supplies. The blood bank regularly organizes mobile campaigns to collect blood from different neighborhoods in Gaza. After donor blood is collected, it needs to be screened for any diseases. With out blood testing kits or even blood bags, the bank has had to turn away hundreds of willing donors because of lack of supplies.
Due to the blockade and limited funds and medical supplies, finding enough blood is a continual challenge for medical professionals in Gaza.
“One of the vital elements for ensuring patient survival in a crisis is a steady supply of high-quality blood. When you donate blood, you donate for people’s survival.” concludes Naela.
To respond to the increased need in 2018, with funding from Islamic Relief USA, Anera has delivered 5,000 blood bags this year to the Central Blood Bank in Gaza, in addition to testing kits for HIV, hepatitis B and C, blood type, and the presence of alcohol, as well as slides to perform blood smear tests.