Blood requirement, availability and distribution

Published Date Written by Allen Trench Kaombe


Blood requirement, availability and distribution

Malawi has recorded deaths and patients’ risks because of blood shortage in the hospitals. This has been prominent in the media as a matter of sounding SoS. Significant progress has also been registered in helping people with various blood transfusions needs recover from ailments.

Thousands and thousands of people blood transfusions. While success has been registered, we as a country continue to lose lives because of blood shortage.


In 2007 Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) conducted a study to establish the number of units of blood  the Malawi country requires to help people in of blood transfusions in the country. It established that the blood requirement in the country hovered at an estimated 80, 000 units of whole blood. By then, MBTS was collecting around 29, 000 units of whole blood representing 36 percent of the national requirement. The country had a gap of 51, 000 units of whole blood. The population then was at around 10 million. The country had since then continued to sing this figure as a national blood requirement until 2015. But mind you the population was not stagnant. It kept increasing.

In 2016 MBTS conducted another study to determine current blood requirement in the country. It established that the country needs 120, 000 units of whole blood. The population at the moment is at 17 million and MBTS is collecting 60, 000 units of blood representing 50 percent of the national blood needs. The gap is very obvious.

By whole blood, we mean the blood collected in blood bag (pint) before separation into components. By components, it means the whole blood has categories in it so much that once separated the components are put in separated blood bags and used to treat specific ailments facing respective patients. MBTS is able to separate whole blood into plasma, platelets, red cell suspension, cryoprecipitate among others just treat conditions of various patients other than administering whole blood, which could be a waste.

Now that because of our unwillingness to donate blood voluntarily, how are the chronic gaps closed if at all? Government (district) and Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) hospitals ask guardians to bring relatives and friends to donate blood for the patients. In 2007, for example, government and CHAM collected around 40, 000 units of whole blood to cover up the gap. In 2015, government and CHAM hospitals collected 31, 000 units of whole blood in trying to close the shortfall. The gaps still persist.

While we are facing chronic blood shortage, distribution of blood considers all authorized hospitals in the country, be it government, private or CHAM hospitals. For example, current distribution to hospitals is in such a way that government hospitals get 81 percent, CHAM hospitals 15 percent and Private hospitals 4 percent. This in sharp contrast of perception held generally that blood is distributed disproportionately. Logically most to government hospitals because they are everywhere and that’s where most of our citizens get health help.

Distribution by type of hospital in category, central hospitals get 50 percent of the processed blood, District and CHAM hospitals 46 percent and private 4 percent.

Further distribution by location, hospitals in the cities get 55 percent, district 29 percent and rural areas 16 percent. So what can we do now to close the gaps? Give blood. Give now. Give often.

Now with current blood rumours in the country, we may lose the gains we have made over the year. We have the gaps, the requirements are increasing and we need to hold hands to enhance the gains we have made. It is the responsibility of every one of us to make sure safe and adequate blood is available in the hospitals. It is also our responsibility to ensure patients’ lives are not put at risk.


Let us hold hands and make blood adequacy happens in the country.

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