This Valentine’s day, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Nairobi office showed love a little differently.
Staff members took part in launching Kenya’s first Mobile Blood Unit, which aims to increase the availability of safe blood in Kenya and save countless lives. Blood donation is a challenge for Kenya: the country currently collects only about half of the 400,000 units of blood it needs every year.
The situation came into sharp focus following the Al-Shabaab-led terror attack at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall last September, which led to an outpouring of support from citizens and residents who offered cash, in-kind donations and humanitarian support—and the ultimate gift of blood donation. Winding queues of people—more, it turned out, than there was equipment to accommodate—stood for hours waiting to donate.
It was then that The Rockefeller Foundation decided to partner with Kenya’s Bloodlink Foundation to purchase the Mobile Blood Unit. Bloodlink had already been advocating countrywide for blood donations and education, and carrying out donation drives.
The $50,000 grant was a follow-up to The Rockefeller Foundation’s 2010 support of Bloodlink and the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) to develop an SMS reminder system for blood donors. That platform, coupled with the new mobile unit, is expected to spur a consistent increase in donations across the entire country. This will ensure the availability of blood for transfusion in the event of future disasters, and contribute to the safe, steady supply of blood that is key for any nation’s healthcare system.
U.S. Ambassador to Kenya H. E Robert Godec and Kenya’s First Lady H.E. Margaret Kenyatta, were also on hand for the launch, as well as several staff members from the Centers for Disease Control.
The Rockefeller Foundation’s Africa regional office Managing Director Mamadou Biteye joined those who lined up to donate in the new unit, lauding the unique resilience of the Kenyan people, who always seem to bounce back stronger from crises, both natural and man-made.
“The support that we have provided helps build a system that embodies resilience, one of two goals that guide our mission of improving the lives of people everywhere,” he said. “This is our modest contribution to improving lives, as well as the system that these lives depend on.”