Blood is big business in Ghana

| November 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

The rate of unemployment in Ghana is one of the highest in the world, despite the country’s reputation as a relatively stable African democracy with some flourishing export markets.

More than 42% of Ghana’s unemployed are aged 15 to 24 years and just under a quarter of the population of 26 million live below the poverty line of 3.60 cedi (US$1), reports the Population Reference Bureau based in Washington DC, in the US.

To make ends meet, young men like Eric Bimpong have resorted to extreme measures.

He waits outside schools and on street corners for students and unemployed youth equally desperate to make some cash. They’re going to sell Bimpong their blood, a much-needed resource in a country where religious and other beliefs often prevent families from donating the life-saving liquid to those in hospital.

Ghana’s national blood service (GNBS) has repeatedly sounded the call for people to donate blood to the country’s badly depleted stock. The calls have largely gone unheeded, says the GNBS, because many people fear contracting a deadly disease from the needles used for blood transfusions.

Bimpong pays out between 100 and 120 cedis per pint (0.57 litres) of blood. He keeps 20 cedis from each sale for himself.

So-called ‘commercial donations’ are also common in other African countries such as Nigeria. The worry is that they are passing on diseases like HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis, syphilis and malaria. In Ghana, about 10% of commercial donors carry the hepatitis virus, which affects 15% of the Ghanaian population, says the haematology department of the University of Cambridge in Britain.

Says the GNBS, “The paid donor is likely to involve in other activities for money as well and will most likely not be living a healthy lifestyle.”

Category: Summer 2014

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