Giving Blood, Giving Life


June 13th, 2014 2:00 pm ET – U.S. CDC Kenya Office

Teresia Kangwele, a program assistant at CDC Kenya and voluntary blood donor

Teresia Kangwele, a program assistant at CDC Kenya and voluntary blood donor

Teresia Kangwele had thought about donating blood for a long time. As a program assistant who provides support to staff working on public health activities, she knew that someone who was suffering from an injury or illness, or needed surgery, would need blood to save their life. But, like many people, she had questions and concerns. “I was really worried about donating, but Nancy (her co-worker at CDC) encouraged me, so I did it.”

Last December, she went with her friend to voluntarily donate blood for the first time. When she arrived at the mobile blood donation site, the staff asked her to fill out a form that included health questions and simple things like how much she weighed.

“At each point, I was hoping they would find something wrong because I was scared of the needle.”

However, she found out it was not as painful as she had anticipated and the staff were very kind. The experience of giving blood is not much different than having blood drawn for a medical test. The time required to donate blood was much shorter than she thought, too. It only took about 30 minutes from the time she arrived, completed the paperwork, donated blood, and then had a refreshment before returning to work.

Teresia considered that her donation was a gift to someone she did not even know. In Kenya, blood is always in short supply. The World Health Organization recommends that every year a country should collect at least 10-20 units of blood for every 1,000 people. However, in Kenya, only 4 units of blood for every 1,000 persons are collected each year. That means that Kenya collects less than half of the 400,000 units of blood it needs.

When Teresia donated, she never expected that she would so soon find that she had a loved one in need of blood and how difficult it was to get it. Less than 2 weeks after she made her donation, one of her family members was admitted to the hospital and required blood transfusions. As often happens in Kenya, with blood in short supply, her family members donated what they could. However, the family’s blood donations were not enough.

Donating a unit of blood can save a life.

Donating a unit of blood can save a life.


Teresia reached out to the lead for CDC Kenya’s Blood Safety activities, Dr. Daniel Kimani. He advised her to contact the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS). The staff person who spoke with Teresia was very helpful and able to make blood available to the hospital. The NBTS  staff told her why the blood supply was so low in December. Most blood donors in Kenya are older school children. When schools were out, there were many fewer donations and less blood for those in need.

Through support of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and CDC’s technical assistance, the United States has been able to work closely with the government of Kenya to help ensure all Kenyans have safe blood, when and where they need it. What is required are regular, voluntary blood donors, just like Teresia, who give blood for any Kenyan who needs it.

Why voluntary donors? Studies have found that donations that are voluntary, and freely given, are safer. Donations must be tested for diseases that circulate in the blood, like HIV. When blood comes from voluntary donors, the health questions that the donor answers help identify someone who may not be eligible to give blood, so NBTS avoids collecting blood that cannot be used. Additionally, each unit of blood collected by NBTS is tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. This helps ensure that someone receiving blood through the voluntary system managed by NBTS is getting safe blood.

Teresia saw soon after donating blood why having regular, voluntary donors is so important. “I actually didn’t know that someone I knew would need blood,” she recounted. This is true for many people in Kenya when family members need blood. In emergencies, like when a mother bleeds during childbirth or a person is injured in a car accident, safe blood needs to be available right away. In that moment, blood is truly the gift of life.

To learn more about donating blood in Kenya, visit the NBTS website or follow them on Facebook.

Those in Kenya can donate year round at the following locations:
  • In Nairobi: Regional Blood Transfusion Centre,  Kenyatta National Hospital grounds, Telephone: 0716773904
  • In Kisumu: Regional Blood Transfusion Centre, Kakamega Road next to the Kisumu Provincial General Hospital, Telephone: 0716773933
  • In Mombasa: Regional Blood Transfusion Centre, Mzizima Road, Coast Provincial General Hospital,  Telephone: 0716773934
  • In Eldoret: Regional Blood Transfusion Centre, Moi Teaching & Referral Hospital, along Nandi Rd., Telephone: 0716775229
  • In Embu: Regional Blood Transfusion Centre, next to Embu Provincial General Hospital, Embu-Meru Rd., Telephone: 0716775232
  • In Nakuru: Regional Blood Transfusion Centre, next to Nakuru Provincial General Hospital, along Kabarak Rd., Telephone: 0716773916
  • You can also donate at satellite blood centers in the following county hospitals: Machakos, Kisii, Kakamega, Kericho, Voi, ,Nyeri, Meru, Malindi, Kitale