In the red: why Chhattisgarh is reeling from an acute shortage of blood
Chhattisgarh, the hotbed of the Maoist insurgency, is reeling from an acute shortage of blood in its hospitals. According to the state's health department, it needs 1.35 lakh units of blood more than it has this year to meet its needs.
While the health department officials blame "lack of awareness among citizens" for the paucity, experts point to "insufficient number of blood banks" and storage facilities. At least 11 of the 27 districts have no blood banks, and there is hardly a facility for storage of blood at tehsil or block level. Patients from tribal areas such as Bastar and Sarguja, in fact, are compelled to go to Raipur and Bilaspur if they require blood.
Health activist Dr Yogesh Jain says, "The health department has not been serious in waging a campaign for blood donation. This is the main reason why Chhattisgarh lags behind other states in availability of blood."
Chhattisgarh has 55 blood banks but only 16 are operated by the government. The state's annual blood requirement is about 2.55 lakh units, but this year so far it has only stored 1.20 lakh units. Of this, the government-run blood banks account for only 60 thousand units.
Only 65 blocks across 27 districts have blood storage centres. Here too, blood availability is not guaranteed. The health department admits that only 45 such centres store blood on a regular basis. There are no immediate plans for blood storage centres in the remaining 71 blocks. This means a large percentage of the rural population would continue to depend on urban centres.
There's not one blood bank in the Maoist dominated districts such as Bijapur, Sukma, Balrampur, Surajpur and Kondagaon, whereas Jagdalpur, Dantewada and Narayanpur are facing an acute shortage due to lack of storage facilities.
Most of the 55 blood banks are concentrated in cities like Raipur, Bilaspur, Rajnandgaon, Durg and Mahasamund. Fourteen blood banks are in Raipur alone. As a result, many victims of violence die for want of blood.
The state also needs blood storage facilities for other reasons. Over 25 lakh people are suffering from sickle cell anaemia in Chhattisgarh. The disease is spreading fast in rural areas. The treatment of anaemia requires regular blood transfusion. Treatment of diseases such as malaria, TB and cancer too require blood transfusion.
Additionally, Chhattisgarh witnesses over 15,000 road accidents every year. Also, lakhs of pregnant women require blood every year.
Dr SK Binjhwar, Additional Convenor of Blood Storage Campaign, believes it's not right to remain dependent on the government alone. He underlines the need for NGOs and other civil society groups to step in.
Dr VR Raman, the former director of the Chhattisgarh State Health Resource Centre, adds, "We can make up this shortage to a great extent if an aggressive campaign is launched for blood donation."