(ERGO) – The lives of twenty five people injured in two recent explosions in the Somali capital Mogadishu were saved this month by the fast response of an innovative volunteer group coordinating blood donations.
Somali Blood Donation Volunteers, a youth-run non-profit group, instructed 15 blood donors registered on their new mobile application to go immediately to the nearest of three local hospitals treating the wounded.
The efficiency of the volunteers made the difference between life and death for the injured, who were hospitalized in Madina, Digfeer and Darul-Shifa hospitals.
Omar Abdirahman, one of the developers of the mobile app and a medicine graduate from Banadir University, explained how the restricted movement in the beleaguered city triggered their initiative.
Roads are often blockaded by security forces because of the constant threat of attack by Al-Shabab militants. On occasion, he said, in the wake of a car bomb or other brutal attack with heavy civilian casualties, they were unable to reach the office to go through their files for the contact details of blood donors who could help.
Omar and colleagues came up with the app, freely downloadable on Android phones, which was rolled out in February. They have 530 blood donors registered so far on the app. Subscriber details include name, city address, phone numbers and blood group. If an emergency arises, the volunteers are able to pinpoint the closest donors with the required blood groups, and can contact them by internet or by phone.
Abdifatah Elmi Geedi donated his first 500 ml of blood this month. He registered using the app and feels the platform will solve some of the challenges that have led to preventable deaths. He told Radio Ergo he got a text message on his phone asking him to go to Medina hospital to give blood, where some explosion victims had been taken.
Omar believes the app and online system could be extended across the country with some support from donors and the government. It could revolutionize the response to all kinds of emergencies, including the high number of complicated maternity cases when many women die due to hemorrhaging.
The organization had registered around 9,000 blood donors in their original hardcopy files, since they began in November 2015. They are hoping that more and more will sign up for the new app.
“The platform is important for saving lives. Using our phones, we can always make people quickly aware about the need for blood donations,” he said.
The system records who has donated blood so they are not contacted again within the regulatory three months. Blood donors can record their donations and even share their experience with friends on Facebook. Health advice is also available on the app. Donors must be at least 60 kgs in weight and their blood is subject to screening for safety and health standards.