Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE National Blood Service of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) has partnered with Facebook and launched an online application to be used in identifying and communicating with potential blood donors to help increase blood supply in the country.
Zimbabwe becomes the second country in Southern Africa after South Africa to have the Facebook Blood Donations Feature and the eighth in the continent.
The other six are Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Niger and Senegal while outside Africa Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Pakistan and USA are the only countries using the application.
One should have a Facebook account and register on the application to be able to use it.
Once logged on, the Facebook Blood Donations Feature will give updates regarding NBSZ activities and blood needs including where current blood donations will be taking place.
It will also tell blood groups in short supply thereby enhancing interaction between blood donors, prospective users and the NBSZ.
The feature will act as a platform for NBSZ to appeal for blood in times of shortages and keep blood donors informed.
It targets the economically active 18-65 age group.
Users will receive online notifications about blood donation activities closer to them and be able to invite others.
NBSZ officially launched the facility in a virtual press conference held on Zoom yesterday.
Facebook Africa Public Policy director Mr Kojo Boakye said the partnership will make a positive impact in the country’s blood donation ecosystem.
“We are committed to building safe and supportive communities on Facebook during these challenging times. It is crucial to make it easy to connect people that want to donate with the opportunity to give while learning about the blood donation centres around them,” he said.
Mr Boakye said the facility be successful in countries that have adopted it, with 45 000 South Africans already using it. About 70 million have signed up worldwide after the launch in 2017.
He said efforts are being made to include other African countries.
Facebook is working in consultation with the World Health Organisation on policy guidelines.
The development comes at a crucial time in Zimbabwe when the country’s blood stocks have been affected by the lockdown.
NBSZ spokesperson Ms Ester Masundah said challenges caused by Covid-19 necessitated the need to embrace new ways of blood donor mobilisation after the pandemic displaced traditional sources of blood like learning institutions.
Ms Masundah said hopes are high that the feature will help increase the adult population donating blood at a time when school children account for more than 70 percent of blood in the country.
“The partnership with Facebook Africa is also in line with the organisation’s efforts of collaborating with value added partners.
“Facebook is very popular with our blood donors and through this new platform they will be able to assist in the recruitment of new donors by inviting others to scheduled blood drives in different communities.
This will enable us to reach out to blood donors, enhance awareness at static and mobile clinics and we will seek media partnership in our sensitisation programmes,” she said.
Ms Masundah encouraged journalists to take a lead and register as blood donors.
She said plans are underway to partner various organisations including telecommunication companies to make sure the application is accessible to all parts of the country.–@ncubeleon