The Missing Life Blood of Bangladesh

The difficulties of effective delivery of emergency health services in Bangladesh can be considered one of the focuses of development organizations. Ensuring that citizens receive all the support they require in emergency situations is an issue that development organizations must address in order to build inclusive resilience. Services, like timely delivery to hospitals, trained doctors and enough medical supplies are all constantly in high-demand for citizens of Bangladesh. 

Bangladesh has been working tirelessly to supply constant emergency services to over 166 million people. The responsibility that the health sector is burdened with is not to be underestimated. In dealing with the lives of 166 million people it is acknowledged that even to provide basic services with the current infrastructure of Bangladesh is difficult. 

In rural areas, due to constant flooding, the roads get washed away on a regular basis, making it very difficult for Ambulances to move around. In addition, the hospitals are usually ill equipped to deal with medical emergencies. Even though Bangladesh has renowned quality of their medical certification, there is a distinct lack of incentives for doctors to work in rural areas, as they can easily find more financially lucrative jobs elsewhere. 

In the major cities, issues relating to infrastructure and congestion cause a similar problem of inaccessibility, as traffic congestion can get to extreme levels that even ambulances will take hours to make a 5 kilometer journey, leaving very little support they can offer in case of emergencies. Even when they do get to the hospitals, they can be unable to provide the emergency services required due to lack of hospital resources in dealing with emergencies. 

The understanding is that the current structure responsible for delivering medical care to citizens of Bangladesh are functioning at maximum capacity, and still struggling to support the citizens of Bangladesh. Innovating around the delivery of emergency services has given some parts of the health sector the ability to offer emergency support when it’s needed. Rather than continue to build infrastructure, some groups have decided to innovate around how emergency services reach citizens in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka. 

A critical issue in Bangladesh is access to safe blood in emergency situations. Despite the multiple organizations that collect blood in Blood Banks around Bangladesh, only 1/4th of the population that need a Blood Transfusion actually can receive the blood they need.  This is due to multiple factors, even if the blood has been previously collected, there is no way of guaranteeing that it can reach the patient in time, it could be stored in a far-away Blood Bank, or the hospital may be unaware as how to contact potential donors with the required blood type. 

Even with the glaring gap in the lack of supply & demand for blood, only 31% of people who donate blood are volunteer donors. The remaining 69% receive transfusions through family friends or professional donors. Family & friends can be an unreliable source of blood for hospitals, as they will only offer blood to those in their social circle and must be contacted to deliver blood, and not to mention the amount of stress that occurs when the intended blood recipient must wait for a reply from their social circle.  An even worse alternative are Professional Donors, who charge for their services, and will not support those who cannot afford their quoted price and also have a higher risk of transferable diseases.

Imagine arriving in a city to make money in order to support your family in your far off village. Having no support circle, it puts you at extreme risk of having no one to depend on in an emergency situation. If you require a blood transfusion, and arrive at the hospital, there is a 25% chance that you will get the blood you need.

To address this problem, UNDP seeks to increase hospitals access to safe blood brought by volunteer donors through an Information Communication Technology innovation project called ICT4B(information Communication Technology for Blood) .  Running with support from the UNDP Innovation Facility the pilot project attempts to be able to develop a system where hospitals can gain fast access to potential donors and volunteers can be alerted as to when someone is in need of their blood, giving them the ability to donate their blood exactly when someone needs it.

Through using an SMS-method of contacting potential volunteers, the ICT4B Innovation pairing with GPS-Technologies seeks to reach out to potential volunteers that are close to the vicinity of the hospital. This can ensure that multiple volunteer donors can be made aware when their blood is needed at a nearby hospital in order to provide life-saving emergency support to critical patients. Should this pilot succeed, not only would it provide hospitals the ability to improve the delivery of their emergency services, it would also increase the accessibility of people to become volunteer donors. 

The ICT4B innovation, if it succeeds in achieving it’s goal would support the local methods of hospitals acquiring blood and giving them fast access to a pool of nearby donors who could be made aware of the emergency situation in which they could act quickly in order to save lives.

Can innovation prove to be a way forward for emergency service delivery In Bangladesh? If you got a text, telling you that you had the opportunity to save a life today, would you? If you answered yes, get in touch with us. We would love to chat.

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