Tuesday February 20 2018

Take showbiz, politicking out of blood donation

Nicholas Sengoba

Nicholas Sengoba  

By Nicholas Sengoba

For the past few weeks, the blood shortage issue n the country had reached alarming proportions. The reason being that much of the blood transfused in Uganda is donated by students thus the shortage when they go for the long Christmas holiday.

As such there have been many commendable efforts by individuals and institutions to help alleviate the crisis using their brands to attract blood donors. The arrangement where a company or institution like the police heads a drive of this nature hits many birds with one stone. First it provides blood, which is in high demand. It may help recruit regular blood donors because such an opportunity may demystify blood donation to first time donors. Then the institution receives publicity for participation in this noble cause through what is known as corporate social responsibility.

Many times, the pictures of employees lying on donor beds with brand tear drop banners flying above their heads, receive ample space on the front pages of newspapers with captions like ‘giving back to society.’

Last week, in this spirit of giving back to society, opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) with the stewardship of newly elected party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat also known as POA, made a much publicised arrangement with the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS) to collect blood at FDC’s headquarters in Najjanankumbi. All went well until the last moment when the UBTS also known as the Blood Bank - a government institution under the Ministry of Health mandated with collecting blood from donors and distributing it to patients in various health institutions - pulled out claiming FDC had politicised the matter. It is very long since I witnessed such poor judgment borne out of pettiness. This act by the UBTS is annoyingly stupid to put it mildly.

For a country that has a national target of 380,000 units annually, but is only collecting about 200,000, every drop counts. Turning away people who have not asked for anything, but merely volunteering to help victims of cancer, accidents, pregnant women, etc, who are fighting for their lives is not only evil. It is a missed opportunity to recruit donors and pours water on the spirit of volunteerism. So for this doltishness, UBTS owes both FDC and Ugandans an apology without any excuses.
FDC was very angry and understandably so. They had invested time, money and other resources to mobilise supporters and other willing donors to leave their work and trek to Najjanankumbi ready to donate blood.

FDC at some point got emotional and out of control. Party top official Proscovia Salamu Musumba wrongly went after an innocent party, the Red Cross, instead of the UBTS. She called them ‘nincompoops’ for rejecting FDC’s blood!

POA out of frustration, because his party supporters and other well-wishers had been taken for granted and were made to look foolish, vowed to ask people ‘not to donate blood!’ Now this is extremely ridiculous and irresponsible (especially coming from a leader) despite the unfair treatment FDC had received.
ou may never know when you will need blood transfusion. Today’s donor may be in need of blood tomorrow for a child or parent who is due for an operation. Refusing to bleed potential donors because of their political affiliation or urging people not to donate blood out of anger is holding society at ransom.

Blood donation is not favour healthy people bestow upon society. It is a moral obligation. But because we have turned it into an act of showbiz, many will not donate without camera crews in the vicinity. If we all carried out this obligation at least once a year, there would be enough blood going around. We would not need these drives neither would scarcity create a market for health workers to sell freely donated blood - something which discourages blood donation.

UBTS should not be partisan at any one point in time. Its managers should stand their ground and collect blood from anyone because we all have our political affiliations. Keep the politics out of it. Otherwise, the blood of those who die because you pick and drop whom to bleed due to politicking, is right on your hands. The same applies to those who incite people not to donate blood because they have suffered a ‘political setback.’

FDC has a campaign dubed Tubalemesse meaning ‘sabotage the powers that be.’ If UBTS rejects ‘FDC blood’ here is an opportunity for Tubalemesse. Send party supporters to the Blood Bank (individually) as ‘ordinary donors.’ Let them donate and receive donor cards. Then you gather them at Najjanankumbi or Namboole for a group photo of donors in party T-shirts with both party and blood donor cards under the hastag #Tubalemesseza!, then politic all you want on social media and elsewhere.

In dictatorial environments, you have to think outside the box to smear egg on the opponent’s face. Ask the powerful communications commission, which switched off social media during the 2016 presidential and parliamentary election. People did not take to the streets. They improvised with VPN.
You do not always have to go into the gutter to confront your opponent.

Nicholas Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issuess. nicholassengoba@yahoo.com
Twitter: @nsengoba