The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services Bill - Regional Society for Blood Transfusion Kenya (RSBTK)

The right to health is guaranteed in article 43 of the constitution and is given effect in the Health Act. The Ministry of Health identified blood safety as a Public Health priority and established the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) in 2000. The role of KNBTS in ensuring this right is recognised and secured under section 85 of the Health Act.

Additionally, the World Health Assembly and the Regional Commonwealth Ministers of Health recommended that their member states develop comprehensive and well-co-ordinated blood transfusion services based on voluntary, non-remunerated blood donation. This was during the World Health Assembly declaration of 1975 and the Regional Commonwealth Ministers of Health declaration of 1989, to which the Kenya is a signatory. To adhere to this, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) policy was adopted in 2001, setting the foundation for provision of safe and adequate supply of blood in Kenya. In addition, section 85 (1) Health Act (HA), 2017 states that there will be an Act of Parliament on the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service.

The national need for blood in Kenya is estimated at 400,000 units annually according to research. In 2016, the NBTS collected 149,000 units of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors (VNRD), a measly 35% of the country’s blood need. This and in consideration of the high and increasing demand confirms acute safe blood shortage in Kenya.

To this end, the Ministry of Health passed the KNBTS policy of 2001. However, no accompanying legislation has been enacted to provide a legal framework for the running of the National Blood Transfusion Service. The development and passage of the KNBTS bill will be in fulfilment of the Constitution, the Health Act, the Policy and Kenya’s obligation internationally.

The lack of a legal framework and an adequately resourced and well-coordinated mechanism to manage the collection, testing, distribution and access of safe blood across the country is a major concern and has led to:

  • Increased risk of infections for both donors and recipients of blood;
  • Shortage of blood supply in the country that is exacerbated during emergencies across the country;
  • Lack of the marketing and advertising required to generate a supply of blood high enough to meet the demand, and thus ensure that patients who need blood can receive it;
  • Lack of adequate storage facilities for the storage of blood across the country;
  • Lack of standards for blood processing and storage facilities;
  • Lack of standards for blood testing which has given rise to the use of rapid test kits which are against international standards on testing;
  • Lack of clarity on the role of counties versus national government on blood supply. As a result, some counties have set up their own blood banks outside of the NTBS to deal with shortage of blood in their counties. However, these blood banks do not meet the prescribed international standards.

In addition, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NTBS) is not adequately funded, as it relies heavily on donations, and therefore does not have adequate staff and required infrastructure to fulfil its mandate. 

According to the Health Act 2017, the KNBTS law should:

  • Provide for the institutional organization of blood transfusion service in Kenya;
  • Develop a comprehensive and coordinated national blood service based on voluntary non-remunerated blood donations to guarantee availability of safe blood;
  • Establish settings and mechanisms that will enable it to superintend, regulate and provide blood transfusion services;
  • Provide for a schedule of offences and penalties

In 2017 stakeholders in the blood donation/transfusion sector in recognition of the need for the legislation formed a committee called Committee of Blood Donations and Transfusion Stakeholders (CBDS) which has now developed a draft National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) Bill.

CBDS has agreed on the draft Bill through various consultations with hospital representatives, Doctors and legal experts. They have also engaged with the Chairperson of the National Assembly Committee for Health, hereinafter referred to as a private member, who has agreed to take up the NBTS Bill as a Private Member’s Bill to Parliament. The CBDS through the RSBTK and with support from the Business Advocacy Fund seek to support the private member obtain the support of the Health Committee, and subject the draft Bill to public participation forums, and later advocate for the enactment of the Bill.

Share this Issue