Kombra Network: Translating commitment to action, an innovative approach in promoting voluntary blood donation in Sierra Leone to help save lives

The theme for 2017 National Safe Blood Donor Week is Donate Donate Blood to Save Lives and is geared towards reducing maternal and child deaths through blood donations as bleeding is one of the key contributors to the deaths of women during child birth in Sierra Leone and across Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Far too many women die unnecessarily every year in Sierra Leone because they cannot access blood if required during delivery. It is our moral and civic responsibility to donate blood for free to help save the lives of mothers and children in Sierra Leone” Mohammad Bailor Jalloh, CEO, FOCUS 1000.

Dr. Marcella Coker, Programme Manager, National Safe Blood Services, Directorate of Hospitals and Labs, Ministry of Health and Sanitation said that, to access free blood supplies when a mother or child’s health is in danger is a civic right just as every adult has the right to vote. It is also the civic and moral responsibility of Sierra Leoneans to donate blood to help reduce the large number of unnecessary maternal and child deaths across the country.

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The major complications that account for nearly all maternal deaths in Sierra Leone are severe bleeding during child birth and eclampsia (high blood pressure), according to the Maternal Death Surveillance and Response (MDSR) Annual Report 2016, released in May 2017. The report, which was authored by Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) Directorate of Reproductive and Child Health, stated that during the period under review, a total of 668 maternal deaths were reviewed and attempts were made by the MDSR team to determine the cause of deaths. Bleeding and eclampsia were the top two causes of maternal death. Of those whose causes of deaths were determined, it was observed that more than 32% of them died of postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) followed by 16% pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH). Forty-five percent of the maternal deaths were caused by all types of bleeding including abortion.

In collaboration with WHO, DFID and partners, and in keeping with its mandate to expand reach to every community and household in the country with appropriate basic-facts-for-life health education, FOCUS 1000 has set up the Kombra Network. The network is made up of religious leaders, market women, traditional healers, civil society and media professionals and its primary tasks is to raise awareness on the importance of appropriate maternal and child care, including on practical and simple measures to prevent maternal and child deaths.

The Kombra Network, with support from the DFID Saving Lives Project has been strengthened in all districts across the country. Efforts are currently ongoing to set up similar structures at the chiefdom and village/community levels.

1. Co-chair and facilitate pre-planning meetings with the Ministry of health officials through the National Safe Blood Services for this year’
2. Advocate and support District Health Management Teams to identify feasible ways to support hospital labs meet their safe blood targets.
3. Organise community engagement and awareness activities in mosques, churches, markets, schools and community centres.
4. Sponsor and radio discussion programs in local dialects to educate the public on the importance of blood donation and the processes involved in donating or accessing donated blood.
5. Facilitate blood donation drives during the National Safe Blood Donor Week of 15-21 December, 2017