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Introduction: Every second, someone in the world needs blood due to surgery, trauma, severe anemia and complications of pregnancy. There is a shortage of blood for transfusion worldwide, with the heaviest burden faced by sub–Saharan Africa. In countries like Tanzania; the major source of blood is voluntary blood donation, making its supply one of the most challenging in the health care system. This study assessed the magnitude of the deficit of blood in blood banks, and explored views of key stakeholders on the need, availability and opportunities for improving blood donations in northern and western Tanzania.
Methods: This was an explanatory sequential mixed method study done in the Mpanda and Moshi districts in the Katavi and Kilimanjaro regions. A quantitative component involved a questionnaire survey with 253 community members from the two districts and 24 months blood bank records. The survey explored awareness and perceptions of voluntary blood donation. A qualitative component involved four focus group discussions with registered voluntary blood donors and health care providers from the National Blood transfusion service in the two districts.
Results: Blood bank records indicated that more blood was collected in Katavi compared to the Kilimanjaro region. Only 26% of the survey respondents had ever donated blood in their lifetime, three quarters of these were from Mpanda district. There was no significant association between socio-demographic factors and likelihood of blood donation. However, being male, older (51 years and above), having higher household income and secondary school education were significantly associated with higher awareness of voluntary blood donation. Community sensitization, education, incentives and availability of blood donation centers near communities were among the most important factors listed to improve blood donation.
Conclusions: Significant efforts need to be placed on sensitization and improving knowledge and awareness of voluntary blood donations in order to improve its uptake.