Humanitarian Health Action

From safe blood transfusions in South Sudan to hospital equipment for Yemen: Wide-ranging support from Japan

Volunteers donate blood in Juba, South Sudan.
Volunteers donate blood in Juba, South Sudan.
WHO/Matilda Moyo

27 April 2016 -- In a country facing ongoing conflict, safe blood transfusions are a life-saving necessity. They are used to treat those suffering from gunshot wounds and conflict-related injuries, but also children suffering from anaemia due to malnutrition often worsened by malaria, survivors of road traffic accidents and mothers who experience excessive blood loss during childbirth are bleeding severely.

But in South Sudan, the supply of blood and blood products has been severely limited. One hospital in Juba, the nation’s capital, for example, collected a mere 124 voluntary blood donations in 2014. The resulting shortage was costing lives.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of Japan collaborated to provide support to the South Sudanese Ministry of Health in boosting the nation’s safe blood supply.

“Thanks to funding from Japan, we were able to work with local health authorities to put together a public advocacy campaign to convince more people in South Sudan to donate blood,” said Dr Abdulmumini Usman, the WHO Representative to South Sudan. “As a result, we witnessed a tenfold increase in voluntary blood donations in 2015, with assured safety. Without question, this initiative is keeping people alive.”

In 2016, Japan is continuing its support for WHO’s response to the emergency in South Sudan, including the safe blood transfusion project, along with crises in the Central African Republic, Guinea, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, occupied Palestinian territory and Yemen. The country recently announced a new contribution of US$ 18.6 million for WHO’s work in emergencies for 2016 – one of its largest contribution to WHO to date.

“WHO is one of Japan’s most important partners for emergencies and humanitarian response,” said His Excellency Mr Junichi Ihara, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva. “Addressing the health consequences of emergencies is a key priority for Japan, and WHO’s plays a vital role in providing health assistance in the countries that will benefit from this contribution from Japan.”

This funding will be used for a wide range of projects including efforts to secure a consistent electricity supply for health facilities in Gaza, the delivery of medical equipment to hospitals in Yemen and the provision of care to more than 40 000 people in Lebanon suffering from non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes. In Guinea and Liberia, funds will be used to support health systems recovery. In Central African Republic, funds will provide assistance to internally displaced, returnees and vulnerable host populations.

“Japan is one of our most steadfast allies,” said Dr Rick Brennan, WHO’s Director for Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response. “Their strong and consistent support helps us to reach crisis-affected people across the globe with life-saving health services.”