Dwindling blood donation due to the Covid-19 related shutdown is taking a heavy toll on thalassemia patients, who need frequent blood transfusions depending on their condition.
Blood banks across the country are almost running dry. While regular donors are unable to reach the banks, blood collection through camps in educational institutions are also suspended.
"Usually, I contact 'Blood Network' [an organisation that connects patients with donors] for a bag of B-positive blood but this time they failed to help. I finally got the blood from one of my relatives," the father of a thalassemia patient told The Daily Star yesterday, wishing anonymity.
He fears that he may not get lucky again in finding a donor, lest the pandemic continues.
Another thalassemia patient's mother said her son developed serious complications when they could not arrange A- negative blood on time.
He had to receive treatment at a government hospital for about a week, before a hospital staff helped collect the blood, she said, wishing anonymity.
Sayeda Bodurn Nesa, publicity secretary of Bangladesh Thalassemia Samity Hospital in the capital's Green Road area, said their blood collection has reduced by 50 percent from that of regular times.
"Earlier, we used to collect blood from around 30 donors daily. Since the lockdown, we can collect blood from hardly 14 to 15 donors [daily]," she told The Daily Star.
Besides, many of their patients and donors from outside Dhaka are unable to reach the hospital due to transport problems during the shutdown, she said, adding that they have around 4,000 registered patients.
Sayeda said their regular blood collection through donation camps at different universities and colleges have been totally suspended since March 26, following the countrywide shutdown.
They now depend on the Quantum Voluntary Blood Donation Program (QVBDP) and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society for blood, she added.
Bangladesh Thalassemia Foundation also suspended their blood collection through camps since March 26.
The organisation is requesting patients to complete transfusion from nearby hospitals instead of coming to their facility in the capital's Shantinagar area.
Aminul Islam, advisor of the foundation, said, "Earlier, we would complete blood transfusion of around 60 to 70 patients daily. But now, we can only provide support to some 15 to 20 patients. We need to check for Covid-19 symptoms before blood transfusion."
Quantum, providing support to thalassemia patients, are also facing a blood donor crisis for the last one month.
Between January and April this year, they collected 16,395 bags of blood. Last year, during the same time, they had collected 19,819 bags of blood, according to QVBDP data.
"Most of our donors' family members are not allowing them to come out only for blood donation in fear of Covid-19 infection. As a result, the collection has fallen sharply," said Moniruzzaman, coordinator of QVBDP.
He said they are providing transport support to people, willing to donate blood.
Moniruzzaman urged young blood donors to come forward during this pandemic to help save the lives of those who need blood.
Echoing his appeal, Tarek Hussain, director (blood programme), Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, said that their organisation's collection has declined by about 60 to 70 percent as outdoor collection is suspended for the last one and half months.
However, their mobile blood collection vans are going to different areas of the capital to collect blood since the end of March, he added.