Out of a need to save lives in Nigeria today comes this new idea called the One Percent Project. Nigeria, a country of over 160 million people, still gets by with a crippling healthcare system and a large portion of its population without access to adequate emergency care. 25% of maternal mortality today is due to unavailability of blood. The current blood donation and distribution system is poorly regulated and coordinated. Hospital based blood collection leads to a highly inefficient and fragmented system.

The recent UN bomb blast in Abuja is a case in point. Within minutes of the attack, the National Hospital in Abuja ran out of blood and many patients lay there, waiting to die. A bleeding trauma patient is said to need more than 100 units of blood. Blood usage today is growing at 3 times the national population growth and there is no other known substitute for human blood.  The Nigerian Ministry of Health estimates that 10% of HIV/AIDS infections in the country were caused by the use of unsafe blood. That is: 1 in 10 HIV positive people in Nigeria were infected because of unsafe blood transfusion.

The One Percent Project seeks to bridge this gap between blood donors and recipients. It is estimated that if one percent of all Nigerians (1.6 million people) will be willing to give blood when needed, much of the problem will be solved and over 13,500 lives of pregnant women and thousand others in need will be saved. With a need of about 1.5 million to 2 million pints of blood annually, the project hopes to recruit young voluntary non-remunerated blood donors. These donors will only have to sign up with One Percent, and share their location in the country. This information is then shared – as need be – with the National Blood Transfusion Service in Nigeria, and other hospitals, at their moment of need. With a database of 1.6 million people, there hopes to be at least one person near every emergency around the country who will show up when called upon to fulfil his/her pledge to donate blood when needed.

I’m involved in this project (along with a few other dedicated health professionals) and very passionate about its success. You should be too. If one percent of Nigerians to donate blood (3 times a year for women and 4 times a year for men), the problem is virtually solved. If you are reading this and you are a young Nigerian between the age of 17 and 65, or you have lived in the country for more than five years, please take a moment to complete this survey right now. It will take about five minutes. Then check out the website foronepercent.org. Follow the organization’s twitter account to get updates on the project and hear about blood drives coming near you. The organization also needs an army of volunteers to get the project working from the ground up in Nigeria. If we all will sign up to be called upon whenever a hospital near us needs blood to save lives, and we will heed that call, we can make a difference, one volunteer at a time.

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