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Cameroonians donating blood for soldiers

Moki Edwin Kindzeka / otAugust 18, 2015

Cameroonian soldiers are increasingly being wounded during their ongoing operation against Boko Haram insurgents. Unfortunately blood supplies have not met the demand. Now regular Cameroonians are stepping in.

Cameroonian soldiers
Image: AFP/Getty Images/R. Kaze

Hundreds of Cameroonian youths are gathered at asports complex in Yaounde, the nation’s capital,to donate blood for their soldiers fighting Boko Hara in the northwest of the country. Soldiers are also being injured while searching for rebels crossing the border to avoid fighting in the Central Africa Republic. More fighting means a greater need for blood.

One of the people waiting to donate is Iyawa Fadimatou. She said that she is donating the blood so that the military can avenge the death of three of her relatives killed in a recent suicide bomb attack in northern Cameroon.

"I am a Cameroonian and this is a civic engagement for me to show my patriotism. This is my own way to react against Boko Haram," said Iyawa.

Joel Neba, a French teacher, said that donating blood is his way of supporting the soldiers.

"My motivation for donating blood today is to help those who have been injured on the battlefront and to tell them that even though we are not at the battlefront with them, we believe that by donating our blood it will help those who are in need," said Neba.

A sense of patriotism and a desire to help the soldiers also led Rene Toka, a student to donate.

"We can't carry bombs. We can't carry arms to go and fight against Boko Haram but we can participate with our blood to support our soldiers," said Toka.

These people and more have been responding in large numbers to calls from the government to donate more blood. The country says that it needs at least 400,000 pints (190,000 liters) of blood. However, due to the high prevalence of HIV and hepatitis in Cameroon, this has been proving difficult.

Blood drive

During a recent blood drive more people came out to donate blood than was expected. Lionnel Koungaba of Cameroon's National Youth Council and, one of the organizers of the blood drive, said they are overwhelmed.

"We have already been visited by more than 200 young people so we are happy. We had to add a second day because we could not collect all the blood in one day," said Koungaba.

But not all of the blood is usable for transfusions. One of the workers collecting the blood, Dr. Elvis Ndansi said that collections have been affected by the high prevalence rate of viral diseases in Cameroon.

Cameroonian soldiers
Over 5,000 Cameroonian soldiers are engaged in ongoing operations against Boko Haram.Image: Reinnier Kaze/AFP/Getty Images

"If hepatitis B is already at a 10 to 13 percent prevalence rate and HIV at 5.4, then you can imagine that this would actually reduce the amount of qualified blood that would be used for transfusion," said Dr. Ndansi.

Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda said shortages in hospitals are forcing medical staff to perform blood transfusions only in very urgent cases. The government is planning to implement a plan to locate and follow up on eligible donors and to open donation centers in all regions of Cameroon. The centers will house special equipment that will test and treat blood and make it ready for transfusion.

"We hope to collect 100,000 out of the 400,000 pints of blood we need within six months, "said Fouda.

More than 3,000 Cameroonian soldiers are fighting Boko Haram on the country’s northern border with Nigeria. The country also recently committed 2,450 troops to the newly-formed multinational force to combat Boko Haram. About 1,000 are patrolling the country's eastern border with CAR to stop rebels from entering Cameroon.