Rising costs bleeding charity blood banks dry, say suppliers
Statesman Report
KARACHI: Pakistan’s charity blood banks are bearing the brunt of Pakistan’s weakening currency, amid an increase in the cost of imported blood containers and other blood screening machinery, according to blood suppliers.
The unbreakable, vinyl blood containers which are not manufactured in Pakistan, and the equipment required for safe screening of donor’s blood have to be imported, and with the Pak rupee devalued by over 40 percent in the last two years, free blood services in the country say it is proving difficult to continue their charity provision.
Most blood banks in Pakistan offer services free of cost, with expenses borne by donations from private citizens and philanthropists.
“We are facing extremely difficult circumstances because of the rising cost of the import of blood bags and blood screening machinery,” Fawzia Siddiqui, chairperson of a welfare foundation that meets the blood requirements of the National Institute of Child Health (NICH), told Arab News.
The rupee depreciation, from Rs. 110 per USD to Rs. 154.85 by the end of 2019, has increased the costs of all imported raw materials across the board, including essential commodities and medicinal products.
“Since last year, the price of [a full] blood bag has increased from Rs. 1,800 to Rs. 2,200, which includes the screening of blood,” Siddiqui said. The difference comes from the higher price of the vinyl bags and screening equipment.
Iqbal Kasmani, head of a blood bank and Thalassemia center that offers free blood and blood components to the poor, said the prices of blood bags and medicines had gone up by between 30 to 40 percent in the last two years.
Kasmani’s blood bank offers services to approximately 400 registered children suffering from Thalassemia– an inherited blood disorder.
At the NICH, there are 4,000 registered children with Thalassemia who regularly need blood transfusions. That blood is supplied free of cost to the poor, alongside other services including the provision of medicines for tuberculosis and cancer.
“We receive donations mostly in the holy month of Ramadan that are consumed throughout the year. 80 percent of our donors are ladies,” Siddiqui said.
Siddiqui, who wants to replace existing blood screening equipment with more modern machinery, says currently, it is difficult to manage even current operations due to the high cost of inputs.
“We need Rs. 6 million to replace the equipment, but high costs are making it difficult,” she said.
Additionally, imports of medicinal products have declined by more than 10 percent during the first 6 months of the current fiscal year to $515 million, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
“Some of the machines used in the hospitals have become 50 percent costlier as compared to last year,” Abdul Samad Memon, Senior Vice Chairman of Pakistan Chemist and Druggists Association, told Arab News and added that the prices of most medicines had surged to over 23 percent.