Blood donation in post-Ebola West Africa


Copyright: James Meiring. Winner HIFA Photography award 2016

What do wellington boots drying in the African sun have to do with blood donation in the post-Ebola era? Tell you later.

But first, as its World Blood Donor Day on June 14th, lets consider the differences between the blood transfusion services in a high income country like the UK with those in Nigeria or Sierra Leone? How has the Ebola epidemic impacted on these services?  

Blood transfusion services in the UK

I think we in the UK probably take our well-established national blood service(s) somewhat for granted and only really give it a second thought when either we need to call on its use or something drastic goes wrong.

Established in 1946, the Blood Transfusion Service (BTS) in England and Wales employs over 6000 people to collect & process the blood alone. All sorts of rules and practices surround the preparation and distribution and use of that blood. We are very fortunate that over 3% of people in the UK donate that blood (1% being the figure recommended as a minimum by the W.H.O. to meet a populations needs) but even then we get regular appeals for more blood and we still suffer shortages for particular blood groups and platelets.

But, have you ever asked yourself why we need continuing fresh donations of blood and who are the usual recipients of that blood?

In 2014, in England & Wales, the 3 major “consumers” of blood were:

  • 67%, to treat medical conditions including anaemia, cancer and blood disorders
  • 27%, in surgery, including cardiac surgery and emergency surgery
  • 6%,   to treat blood loss after childbirth

The most frequently transfused patient group is over 65 years of age.

100% of the blood donated is voluntary. This is important, as the W.H.O. has declared that the foundation of a safe blood supply is 100% voluntary donation. Blood obtained this way has lower rates of infections and so reduces chances of disease transmission via blood or blood products.

How does this compare with a blood transfusion service in West Africa ?

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Focusing food security efforts where they are needed

The current World Summit on Food Security , as noted in an earlier blog, is a major effort to focus agriculture to lower risks of starvation and economic insecurity. But how can researchers and planners work out what is needed where? John Dixon of ACIAR and his co-authors describe a major Food and Agriculture Organization – World Bank initiative to classify world farming systems to enhance food security and help reduced poverty in a new paper.


Writing in CABI Reviews, Dixon says that the framework characterizes farming systems in terms of land quality and market access.  These elements are crucial in shaping development of farming systems and household livelihood strategies in ways that boost farm income and ensure delivery of cereals that are central to food security.

In their review, Dixon and his co-authors look at the various strategies for reducing poverty and conclude that farm intensification and diversification look to be the most promising ways of achieving that in many cereal farming systems. They say that the importance of intensification and diversification in differing farming systems can be used as a basis for priority setting and targeting of agricultural research to enhance food security and reduce poverty.

In other words, classification can be a key tool in deciding which farming practices are most likely to help the poorest and reduce their exposure to economic and climatic change.


The review, “Forty years of farming systems classification for enhanced food security and poverty reduction” by John Dixon, Jon Hellin, Xiaoyun Li and Glenn Hyman appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 2009 4, No. 060.


Also published this month: “Challenges to ensuring food security through wheat” by R. Chand:  CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 2009, 4, No. 065.


For other recent reviews focused on food security, see the blog entry

Food Price Hikes – Crisis and Opportunity?


For other recent blogs on food security, click here