The National Blood Transfusion & Research Center is bleeding

National Yemen

Sadam Al-Adwar

By: Sadam Al-Adwar, youth activist and beneficiary of the center’s services

Many Yemeni families – including my own – have at least one child who suffers from one of the blood diseases which are prevalent in this country (including blood cancers, hemophilia and thalassemia).

A disaster recently struck such families when operations were suspended – it’s now been over a week – at the National Blood Transfusion and Research Center’s (NBTRC) main office in Sana’a, as well as eight of the center’s branches in Yemen’s largest cities.

On a daily or weekly basis, families have brought their children to these locations for medical attention and, in many cases, life-saving blood infusions.

How could such a disaster be allowed to happen? After looking into the matter, I can summarize the reasons as follows:

1) An insufficient operational budget for the main office in Sana’a and the other branches (in Aden, Ibb, Abyan, Hajja, Hadhramout, Hodeida and Taiz).

The annual budget for the NBTRC in 2007 was around YR 750 million, when the center received 10 – 20 blood donors a day. This year’s budget was reduced by the government – as represented by the Ministry of Public Health and Population – to YR 350 million, even as an average of 150 donors come to the clinic on a daily, 24-hour basis.

2) The NBTR Center provides its services to everyone free of charge.

3) Center staff are paid less money and receive insufficient benefits when compared with staff at other medical centers. At the same time, there is an absence of much-needed technical and administrative staff.

These reasons – and doubtless others – were behind the closing of the center’s doors to both beneficiaries and blood donors.

As I write these lines, my heart bleeds for my country and the families with children who have blood diseases – as they suffer and while no one seems to listen and feel their pain.

Tens of families are currently waiting for NBTRC to open its doors and save their sick children…and dozens of citizens wait to return to work so as to be allowed to draw a smile on the faces of children – and save the life of children simply by donating a few drops of their blood.

While the Ministry of Public Health and Population did nothing to solve NBTRC’s problems, the Ministry itself was the cause of many of the center’s problems when, beginning in 2008, it began replacing a qualified management team led by Dr. Arwa Aoun with one which was less-qualified.

The poor treatment and funding of NBTRC in recent years stand in contrast to the center’s inception, via Presidential Decree number 58, issued on 7 May 2005. When work began on March 18, 2006, NBTRC locations were equipped with the latest technology and medical equipment, and enabled with legal rights and sufficient finances.

With these lines, on behalf of my family and all the families which benefit from the center’s services; on behalf of all those who are affected by the center’s suspension of operations, I appeal to President Hadi, Prime Minister Basindowa and the Minister of Public Health and Population to solve the problem as soon as possible – before this present disaster begins to see the loss of lives of children who are already suffering from pain each and every day.

I also appeal to health and human rights organizations to pay attention to this problem and draw the attention of decision-makers to it. I’m sure that we can all agree that a child has the right to live and grow in health and safety.

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