The role of religious, traditional leaders is paramount in blood drive- Dr. Hassan

March 15th, 2019

Recently, Manal Hassan Foundation pioneered free and voluntary blood donation camp in conjunction with Dr. Hassan’s Hospital Diagnostic Centre, Abuja.
The Foundation was established following the demise of 11 year-old Manal Hassan, on July 10, 2018, after a brief illness.
The Manal Hasan Foundation is working towards providing access to quality healthcare and education for those who cannot afford even the most basic necessities of life. In this interview with the Chief Medical Director of Dr Hassan’s Hospital, Abuja, DR. SHABIHUL HASSAN, he reiterated the need for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), private bodies, religious and traditional rulers to be fully involved in blood drive in order to save lives. HASSAN ZAGGI writes

What prompted the establishment of Manal Hassan Foundation?

Actually, the Manal Hassan Foundation was established in memory of my niece, Manal Hassan and daughter of my younger brother, Saman Hassan . She was 11 years old and we lost her last year. Shortly after we lost her, we conceived this concept of establishing a foundation in which we can help under privileged in different categories.

One of the categories is the blood donation camp. Basically the foundation is working towards various missions, one of which is the blood donation camp which we held recently. Under the blood donation scheme, we intend to procure as much free blood for people as possible and ensure that it reaches the recipients free. This is because blood is one of the best things one human being can give to another.

Other than the blood donation, there are few other things that the foundation has been doing, working both in Nigeria and in India.

We focus on the urban poor. You know the rural poor have family support. The urban poor are the most underprivileged because the leave their homes and come and settle in the communities where if they run out of food or basic necessities of life, they do not have any support.

So, the Manal Hassan Foundation is focusing on the urban poor. Other than providing free blood, we also focus on providing amenities to children in school where there are children who are under privileged. We give them items like books, bags, text books and pencils. In addition to that, we are going to focus on water supply.

We intend to procure large quantities of anti cancer medication. This is one of the things people living with cancer have difficulty in accessing, especially, from the poor communities. We are going to identify people in different hospitals both private and government owned who cannot afford to take anti cancer treatment and we will try and see if we can provide these drugs for them. So, these are the things the Foundation is doing.

The basic idea was conceived by my brother, the father of Manal Hassan.

Nigeria is vast and you are talking of providing blood free to those who need it. What is your source of funding?

You see, this is a basic misconception that anytime you want to do charity work you need large scale funding. You can share your plate of food. Every day you can share your three meals with somebody. 95 per cent of society is healthy, 5 per cent is sick. You don’t have to pay anything to lose one pint of blood from your body.

What we are doing is that we are facilitating it. We have a big hospital here with many ambulances. What we do is that if you donate blood as a responsible member of the society, we help you to screen the blood. That is the money we spent. After screening, we package it and arrange the delivery to the individuals who need it.

We don’t need any large scale funding, it is our own money. We pay zakat (2.5%) from our money- whatever we earn. It doesn’t have to be big.

The thing is that no single individual or foundation can take the responsibility for the entire need of the society. What we do is that we do our best. We make sure our reach get to, as far as we can. We try to set good transparent models so that others can also copy. We expect that as we are doing this, few individuals in the society can also do it.

So, collectively, we will be able to cater for the needs of the society. If we claim that we are going to take care of everybody, that is not realistic. We will do what is within our own capability.

Do you see us getting the right results in terms of blood drive through private sector partnership and involvement?

You see, private sector partnership is not binding. When I talk about private sector partnership, this is the coming together of like minds. You know when you are doing something, there are a thousand people in the society, definitely, some will come with you. Partnership can be private sectors with each other, it can be with the government. It does not have to be a formal partnership. You are only complementing what the government is doing.

During our blood donation camp, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) was there. They came with a large number of their staff. They are already doing a good work, but like I always say, government cannot do everything. Civil society and the private sector must participate in this. It is when civil society and private sector participate along with the government, then things will move forward. The expectation that government should deliver everything and we sit back is not correct.

Do you think involving traditional rulers and clerics in the free blood donation drive will enable us get the right pull of donors.

You know any campaign for doing development or good work, the role of religious leaders is prime and is important. Religious leaders can play a major role because they are in touch with society directly. People listen to them. Whether it is a Church leader or a Mosque leader, people listen to them and also trust them. In any good work, there is the need to go out and involve the religious and traditional leaders.

There is a misconception that blood donation has a spiritual connotation attached to it, hence people tend to run away from it. As an expert, what advice do you have for such people?

You need to educate people. As a doctor, in treating people for the last 35 years, the more blood you donate, the healthier you become. Your blood is reformed within 10 to 15 days. We suggest that a person can donate blood within a gap of 120 days. Maximum 4 months, that pint of blood is back in your body. Researchers have shown this over and over again that donating blood is healthy so there is nothing spiritual about this. Blood is an organ of the body and you are sharing it with other people. You are helping to save other people’s lives.

What do you think Nigeria can do to reduce the gap or the number of people who need blood in the country?

It is a huge task. You see, Nigeria is a big country, and definitely, the need for blood is a lot more than the actual availability of blood. What we have taken is just a small step and we expect others to come along and work with us to do the same.

We are not the only people doing this, there are charity organisations spread around the country who are making a lot of efforts. There are good people doing the same thing. This is coordination, we are encouraging people who are interested in doing this to come forward and do it.

Do you think there are structures or things the government need to put in place to encourage people to come along and do this thing you are doing?

No. I think the government already has a fantastic structure. The NBTS said it has 17 centres around the country and they keep on encouraging people to come up to these centres and donate blood.

Government is already doing its best. I am sure there is room to do better. Again, I want to emphasis that the private sector and the civil societies should participate in this. That is why when we took the step, we did not do it alone, we brought the NBTS in.

You know development work is basically building the blocks, you have to build on what others have already done. We are not starting this. Ever since independence and even before that, people have been donating blood in this country. It is not enough, so we want to do out bit. We also want to continue collaborating with all those who are doing it.

What advice do you have for Nigerians in regards to blood donation?

It is the same advice for everybody. Our concept at the Foundation of charity work is that you share what you have. I don’t believe in people going out to have launching for funds and all that. If you have a plate of food and you want to give to somebody, give half of your food to somebody. You are sharing your own food, so share you blood with somebody. Every few months that fresh blood is made again.

So, everybody who is healthy should donate blood. If you are fit to donate, please do so because that pint of blood which you are giving from your own body is helping someone else, is saving somebody’s life. I don’t think there is anything better that any human being can do than to share his blood with someone else whose life needs to be saved.

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