Health OurHealth

Rural communities willing to donate blood

Hands showing lab workers testing for HIV
A healthcare worker draws a drop of blood for an HIV test. Credit: UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2014/ Pudlowski
Written by Zizo Zikali

Rural communities believe that while donating blood is an important service, most donors live in urban areas while villagers feel little is being done to target them as an untapped source of blood.

Villagers from Flagstaff and Mbizana in Eastern Cape this week, when questioned, said they did not know what the South African National Blood Service was and did not know what role it played.

Every year on June 14 countries around the globe celebrates World Blood Donor Day – an event that serves to thanks voluntary donor for their blood.

The day – first established in 2004 – also aims to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and to appreciate blood donors for saving millions of lives every year.

This year the theme is “Be there for someone else. Give blood. Share life “.

Masixole Mtshakaza (32) of Didi Village in Mbizana said the SANBS should work closely with other organisations operating in rural areas to ensure that its services become known by rural communities who might be willing to save lives

“The number of road fatal car crashes rises each holiday season, increasing the demand for blood from our blood bank. Yet these services are not made available to rural societies such as Mbizana. I personally am willing to donate but I am clueless about which channels to follow or what I would need to do,” Mtshakaza said.


Sinoxolo Ngxeke (28) of Mbongweni Village said she donated blood once back in 2013.

“The first and the last time I donated blood was while I was still a university student in Umthatha. Now that I am based in Mbizana there is nothing encouraging me to donate. The SANBS is invisible – at least campaigns should be conducted to educate and encourage people to donate blood to ensure that the blood never runs dry,” she said.

Rene Vice of SANBS Eastern Cape said they do have donor centres throughout the country.

“We have three fixed donor centres in the East London area, and we also have mobile teams that visit businesses, schools, tertiary institutions and malls on a daily basis. If people would like to know where these mobile teams are, they can contact on our toll-free number 0800 11 90 31,” Vice said.  

“We also have a dedicated Donor Education teams that focus on education at schools and even businesses. We try to motivate people to donate blood at least twice a year so that they remain regular blood donors.”

She said this was necessary in order to build up decent blood stores and ensure there was always enough blood and blood products available to meet the needs of the country.

Mkhuseli Zenzile, a regular blood donor who originates from Lusikisiki but is based in Cape Town, said he is uncertain about whether he would be a blood donor if lived fulltime in his hometown.

“I started donating in 2013 and have been a regular donor since then. I make sure that I donate blood at least twice a year although I am not sure if I would be a donor if I still lived in my village.  The SANBS should target rural areas to encourage our people to donate blood,” said Zenzile.

An edited version of this story was published by The Star newspaper print edition.

About the author

Zizo Zikali

Zizo Zikali is our Eastern Cape based citizen journalist who also heads news at Inkonjane Community Radio in Flagstaff. Under her leadership, the news team is receiving recognition from local government and is the defending champion for Alfred Nzo District Municipality Annual Award for Best Innovative Current Affairs Programme. Zizo has over six years experience in community media and worked for organisations such as Voice of Tembisa FM from 2011-2014 and Inkonjane community Radio since 2014. Her educational qualifications include an Advanced Radio Certificate from University of the Witwatersrand obtained in 2016 and a Human Resources Management qualification from the Durban University of Technology obtained in 2008.