SPH graduates help Tanzania bank blood
On the African continent, 20 percent of the blood supply is HIV-infected and there is not enough blood, period, to meet demand. “In Africa, there is a long-held tradition where people whose family members have had transfusions replenish the blood supply,” says Natalia Espejo. Espejo and Sam Lee, both 2011 MPH graduates, are helping one country—Tanzania—increase the amount of healthy blood available to those in need.
With a grant from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), they are working with Tanzania’s National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS). Lee is in Dar es Salaam training blood bank staff and donor recruiters; Espejo is in Minneapolis helping ensure continued funding and project success. She acts as cross-cultural interpreter between what happens in the field and what is expected in Washington.
“We have to constantly make adjustments in our work in Tanzania, and I need to report and explain those to PEPFAR,” she says. “For example, what we can do in the capitol with technology changes when we take the program to NBTS’s seven hubs around the country.”
Lee and Espejo make up one of two SPH teams trying to increase blood supplies and donation standards in the developing world. In Afghanistan, Terri Konstenius, director of SPH’s International Blood Programs, is overseeing training of medical personnel and is the operation leader for both projects.