Facebook’s blood donation feature a hit in Zimbabwe

By Kenneth Matimaire

Over 15,000 Zimbabweans have signed up to Facebook’s blood donation feature, which the giant tech introduced last year to give users information about blood banks located near them.

Itumeleng Morule, Facebook’s communications associate manager for southern Africa, made the revelations during the social media giants’ meeting with Zimbabwe’s media industry players recently.

“We launched the blood donation feature in 2017,” Morule said.

“Over 85 million Facebook users have signed up to receive notifications about the nearest blood banks around them. 

“And in Zimbabwe since we launched last year we received over 15,000 sign ups. 

“I’m sure that the number has grown (as of now).”

Zimbabwe in September last year, became the eighth African country to make use of the feature following the partnership between the National Blood Services of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) and Facebook.

Other African countries where Facebook had already launched the feature include South Africa, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Egypt, Kenya, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire.

The feature is accessible to Facebook users aged between 18 and 65. Once signed up, users receive notifications of nearby blood donation centres.

The feature came at a crucial point when Zimbabwe was battling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw NBSZ’s blood stocks dropping significantly.

Other speakers at the Facebook event, included the tech giant’s head of public policy for southern Africa Nomonde Gongxeka – Seopa, public policy manager, FadzaiMadzingira, and head of communications for sub-Saharan Africa, KeziaAnim-Addo.

Zimbabwe issued its first total lockdown that became effective in March last year and eased it in December before it was re-introduced between January this year to mid-February.

Statistics obtained from NBSZ showed that blood donations went down by 40 percent last year.

Tonderai Mapako, NBSZ planning, information, and research manager, attributed the decline in blood donations to the lockdowns.

“There was restrictions of movement and closure of industries and schools, which are our major sources of blood donations,” Mapako said.

“So we could not do site visits to industries or schools as they were affected by the lockdown.”

NBSZ acknowledged that “the challenges brought by Covid-19 have necessitated the need for NBSZ to embrace new ways of blood donor mobilisation”, including its partnership with Facebook.

According to the statistics, for example Mutare targeted to collect 6,500 units of blood but only managed 2,283 units between April and August 2020, which could potentially lead to serious shortages in hospitals. 

NBSZ authorities, however, downplayed the looming shortage arguing that demand for blood has been low at both government and private hospitals.

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