Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Egypt current blood donation system—with 250 national blood banks—is bureaucratic and has no tracking system linking the different branches together. Thus, when a patient needs blood for a surgery or needs regular blood transfusions, it is the responsibility of the patient and the patient’s family to search for a donor with a matching blood type. Often families travel from one blood bank to the next in search of the right blood type and, in many cases, are required to additionally find a donor to replace the blood taken out of the bank. They suffer delays and have to pay many fees in the form of bribes. If there is no replacement blood, then the patient needs to purchase the blood—sometimes at a high price. Families with limited economic means might not be able to afford to buy blood and if there is no one in the extended family with the matching blood type, then the patient has to wait until the family can find someone to donate the blood. This waiting game can be fatal for the patient. Occasionally hospitals have their own blood banks, but they often have a very limited supply of blood.
In addition to requiring replacement blood to be found, national blood banks do not have a centralized system to call or find out what types of blood are being stored in local blood banks. There is no internal or computerized system for this. Further, an underground black market has evolved where blood is bought and sold. Blood donors make money from selling the blood they donate, hospitals sometimes ask the families to donate blood then go around and sell it to another patient, in addition to other gaps in the system. Despite efforts by the Ministry of Health issuing a decree banning the sale of blood in 1999, the black market continues to exist as long as the need is not addressed. Private blood banks are allowed to sell screened blood but this is a limited supply only available to private hospitals that can afford to buy it since it is paid for by the patient.
There are several citizen sector organizations working on blood donation campaigns such as Resala and Freeblood.com and others that use mobile blood donation units that collect donated blood from throughout the country in addition to events and blood drives. While these organizations serve as an informative platform on blood donation, they do not have a system to match patients with donors nor do they address the lack of trust in the current blood donation system. While there are public sector efforts encouraging blood donation campaigns, there is still a need for a centralized computerized system to track blood supply and demand, grouping all organizations and blood banks under one tracking system.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Acting out of a need to solve a national problem, Hisham Kharma created the first online trusted community and platform to link blood donors with recipients, aggregate all blood donation initiatives in one place, and map out areas of the country where there is availability or shortage of blood. His platform, Law Andak Dam (meaning If you have a conscience/If you have blood) is the first to group all actors under one umbrella including patients in need of blood, donors, hospitals, blood banks, and citizen sector organizations. Using Hisham’s platform, both users, suppliers and supportive institutions can go to one place and quickly identify where particular blood types and quantities are needed as well as where they are available at any given time—a centralized system that is very new to Egypt.
Relying on the viral nature of social media and people’s desire to give during times of crisis, Hisham formed a large network of donors and a community of concerned citizens who are willing for the first time to donate blood to strangers. Though traditionally Egyptians only donate blood to family members or close friends, Hisham foresaw the opportunity to expand the definition of family to all Egyptians by embedding trust and rapport into a platform that had already been noted for successfully connecting divers segments of the Egyptian population—the internet. Law Andak Dam is connecting patients to blood donors who are complete strangers and thereby restoring faith into a system that has historically been known for its inefficiencies and lack of credibility.
To alter attitudes towards blood donation, Hisham thought to build a community based system for blood donation relying on a renewed sense of social solidarity, trust amongst a younger active generation who want to contribute to society, and the simplicity of a system that functions independently of (but in coordination with) government national blood banks. In addition to creating an online community that is actively donating blood to those who need it based on demand, Hisham’s system is supported by a trusted network of institutions (hospitals, private blood banks, national blood banks, and CSOs) to connect blood donors to receivers via social media and other means in later stages.
Capitalizing on the fact that young adults make up for almost half of Egypt’s population as well as the knowledge that 31.2 million citizens in Egypt are internet users, Hisham uses non-conventional, light-hearted campaigns as well as social media to promote his cause. Even if elderly people or those who do not have access to the internet are the ones in need of blood, they will be able to call on a younger family member or friend or on the ground community centers of CSOs to connect them to Hisham’s platform.
Hisham is building a community approach to blood donation, capitalizing on post-revolution wide-spread social media usage, to decrease the amount of time it takes for someone in need of blood to receive it and restore trust in the blood donation field. Hisham’s objective is to become the “yellow pages” for blood in Egypt, with full directories of blood banks reporting their available stocks and shortages. Already working in several regions in the Egypt, he plans to expand his reach throughout the rest of the country and to provide a complete mapping of available and needed blood nationally.