Let Us take Supply Chain and Blood Supply Chain in Kenya More Seriously Today!!

BLOOD SUPPLY CHAIN IN KENYA,Auditor general report

Do you know that supply chain specialists could play a vital role in enhancing blood supply chain in Kenya? Not just the administration, but operational processes.  But we seemingly focus on the procurement process and forget that supply chain is so much more.

Kenya, like many developing countries, faces significant challenges in maintaining an adequate and safe blood supply for its population of over 50 million people. The blood supply chain, a complex system involving collection, testing, processing, storage, and distribution of blood and blood products, is crucial for healthcare delivery. This article delves deep into the current state of Kenya’s blood supply chain, examining the multifaceted issues, exploring potential opportunities for improvement, and highlighting the pressing need for supply chain specialists in this critical sector.

BLOOD SUPPLY CHAIN IN KENYA,Auditor general report

Key take aways from OAG Report

1. Inadequate Supply of Blood to Hospitals:
– KNBTS failed to supply 46% of the blood requested by the 27 sampled hospitals.
– Blood requests increased by about 6,000 units each year, exacerbating the supply problem.

2. Lack of an Inventory System:
– No stock management system for blood and blood products in hospital blood banks.
– No established re-order levels for efficient blood transfusion services.
– Risk of blood wastage due to expiry and lack of adequate stocking systems.

  • Failure to Meet WHO Requirements:
    • KNBTS failed to set blood collection targets according to WHO standards (1% of population).
    • The target was set at an average of 201,667 units, far below the WHO requirement of 476,000 units.
  • Failure to Meet Own Collection Targets:
    • KNBTS failed to collect about 41,222 units of blood or 20% of their own set targets annually.
  • Inadequate Donor Recruitment and Retention:
    • Inability to recruit and retain regular voluntary non-remunerated donors.
    • Over-reliance on first-time donors (76% of donors), with only 9% being regular donors and 16% repeat donors.
  • Resource Constraints:
    • Inadequate resources for provision of blood transfusion services.
  • Risk to Patient Care:
    • Failure to access blood when needed poses a major risk to patients with critical illnesses, especially those with life-threatening conditions like hemorrhages and accident victims.
  • Target Setting Issues:
  • KNBTS sets targets based on available resources rather than WHO requirements or actual hospital needs.

Current State of Blood Supply Chain in Kenya

  • Kenya’s National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) is the primary body responsible for blood collection and distribution in the country. Despite its efforts, Kenya consistently falls short of meeting its annual blood needs. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that a country should collect blood equivalent to 1% of its population to meet the clinical demand. For Kenya, this translates to about 500,000 units annually. However, recent data shows that Kenya only manages to collect about 250,000 units per year, meeting just 50% of the estimated need.

Let us have a look at the Issues and Challenges that blood supply chain in Kenya faces:

Insufficient Donations:

  1. Cultural barriers and misconceptions about blood donation
  2. Lack of awareness about the importance of regular blood donation
  3. Limited number of donation centers, especially in rural areas
  4. High prevalence of deferrals due to health issues like anemia

Limited Storage Facilities:

  1. Inadequate number of blood banks across the country
  2. Unreliable power supply affecting proper storage of blood products
  3. Lack of advanced cold chain equipment in many healthcare facilities
  4. Insufficient backup systems leading to blood spoilage during power outages

Transportation Hurdles:

  1. Poor road infrastructure, especially in rural and remote areas
  2. Lack of dedicated transportation systems for blood products
  3. Inadequate cold chain management during transportation
  4. High costs associated with emergency blood deliveries

Quality Control Challenges:

  1. Limited capacity for comprehensive testing of all donated blood
  2. Risk of transfusion-transmitted infections due to inadequate screening
  3. Lack of standardized protocols across different healthcare facilities
  4. Insufficient training for healthcare workers in blood handling and transfusion practices

Funding Constraints:

  1. Limited government allocation for the blood supply chain
  2. Dependency on donor funding, which can be unpredictable
  3. High costs associated with blood collection, testing, and storage equipment
  4. Insufficient resources for public awareness campaigns and donor recruitment

Technological Gaps:

  1. Lack of a centralized digital system for blood inventory management
  2. Limited use of data analytics for demand forecasting and supply planning
  3. Inadequate tracking systems for blood products throughout the supply chain
  4. Insufficient integration of telemedicine and e-health solutions in blood management

Regulatory and Policy Issues:

  1. Outdated blood safety policies and regulations
  2. Lack of clear guidelines for blood pricing and cost recovery
  3. Insufficient enforcement of quality standards across all healthcare facilities
  4. Limited coordination between public and private sector blood banks

Opportunities for Improvement

Mobile Blood Donation Drives:

  1. Implement more mobile collection units to reach underserved areas
  2. Partner with community organizations and schools for regular blood drives
  3. Utilize social media and SMS campaigns to promote mobile donation events
  4. Develop a flexible scheduling system for donors to book appointments

Technology Adoption:

  1. Implement a national digital platform for blood inventory management
  2. Develop mobile apps for donor recruitment and retention
  3. Use blockchain technology for enhanced traceability of blood products
  4. Leverage big data analytics for better demand forecasting and resource allocation
Just a side note: The is a student from Strathmore who developed a Prototype: See Details


Public-Private Partnerships:

  1. Collaborate with telecom companies for nationwide awareness campaigns
  2. Partner with logistics companies to improve blood transportation systems
  3. Engage private sector labs to augment blood testing capacities
  4. Work with tech startups to develop innovative solutions for blood management

Education and Awareness:

  1. Integrate blood donation education into school curricula
  2. Launch nationwide media campaigns to dispel myths about blood donation
  3. Train community health workers as blood donation advocates

Regional Cooperation:

  1. Establish knowledge-sharing platforms with neighboring countries
    Develop cross-border protocols for emergency blood sharing
    Collaborate on research initiatives to address common challenges
    Pool resources for bulk procurement of essential equipment and supplies

Capacity Building:

  1. Invest in training programs for healthcare workers in blood management
    Establish specialized courses in blood supply chain management at universities
    Provide continuous professional development for blood bank staff
    Develop mentorship programs pairing experienced professionals with new entrants

Infrastructure Development:

  1. Invest in modern blood storage facilities across all counties
  2. Develop a network of strategically located regional blood centers
  3. Implement solar-powered blood storage solutions for areas with unreliable electricity
  4. Improve road networks to facilitate easier transportation of blood products

The Need for Supply Chain Specialists

Examples of Supply Chain Specialists needed





Kenya: Supply Chain Function

The complexity of Kenya’s blood supply chain challenges underscores the critical need for specialized professionals who can optimize operations and implement innovative solutions. Supply chain specialists with expertise in healthcare logistics can play a pivotal role in transforming Kenya’s blood management system. Here’s how these professionals can contribute:

1. Implement Best Practices in Inventory Management:
– Develop and implement Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory systems for blood products
– Establish optimal stock levels based on historical data and seasonal variations
– Implement FIFO (First-In-First-Out) protocols to minimize wastage
– Design contingency plans for sudden demand spikes or supply disruptions

2. Develop Efficient Transportation Networks:
– Create hub-and-spoke distribution models for efficient blood product movement
– Implement route optimization algorithms for blood delivery vehicles
– Integrate real-time tracking systems for blood shipments
– Develop protocols for emergency air transport of blood to remote areas

3. Improve Forecasting and Demand Planning:
– Utilize advanced analytics to predict blood demand patterns
– Implement machine learning algorithms for more accurate forecasting
– Develop collaborative planning systems involving hospitals and blood banks
– Create early warning systems for potential shortages or oversupply situations

4. Enhance Quality Control Measures:
– Implement end-to-end traceability systems for blood products
– Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all stages of the supply chain
– Implement Six Sigma methodologies to reduce errors and improve quality
– Design and implement comprehensive audit and compliance programs

5. Streamline Processes to Reduce Costs and Minimize Wastage:
– Conduct value stream mapping to identify and eliminate inefficiencies
– Implement lean management principles in blood bank operations
– Develop performance metrics and KPIs for continuous improvement
– Optimize resource allocation across the supply chain network

6. Leverage Technology for Enhanced Efficiency:
– Implement blockchain technology for secure and transparent blood product tracking
– Develop IoT-based solutions for real-time monitoring of blood storage conditions
– Create integrated software solutions for donor management, inventory control, and distribution
– Utilize artificial intelligence for predictive maintenance of critical equipment

7. Manage Stakeholder Relationships:
– Develop collaborative relationships with hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers
– Coordinate with government agencies and regulatory bodies
– Manage relationships with technology providers and equipment suppliers
– Facilitate knowledge sharing and best practice adoption across the network

Comparison to Other Countries

Examining successful blood supply chain models in other countries can provide valuable insights for Kenya:

1. Rwanda:
– Implemented a drone delivery system for blood products in partnership with Zipline
– Reduced delivery times from hours to minutes, especially in remote areas
– Achieved a 7% wastage rate compared to the 5-20% common in other African countries
– Lessons for Kenya: Embrace innovative technology solutions and public-private partnerships

2. South Africa:
– Developed a centralized National Blood Service with a robust network
– Implemented a nationwide donor management system
– Achieved near 100% voluntary non-remunerated blood donation
– Lessons for Kenya: Focus on centralization and standardization of blood services

3. India:
– Launched e-Raktkosh, a centralized blood bank management system
– Implemented a nationwide network connecting over 2,700 blood banks
– Developed a mobile app for real-time information on blood availability
– Lessons for Kenya: Leverage digital platforms for improved connectivity and accessibility

4. United States:
– Maintains a highly efficient blood supply chain with advanced inventory management
– Implements a robust hemovigilance system for monitoring transfusion safety
– Utilizes sophisticated demand forecasting models
– Lessons for Kenya: Invest in advanced technologies and focus on data-driven decision making

5. Japan:
– Achieves one of the lowest blood wastage rates globally (less than 0.1%)
– Implements a stringent quality control system throughout the supply chain
– Utilizes advanced robotics in blood testing and processing
– Lessons for Kenya: Prioritize quality control and explore automation opportunities

6. Netherlands:
– Operates a centralized blood supply system with high efficiency
– Implements innovative donor retention strategies
– Utilizes advanced blood component production techniques
– Lessons for Kenya: Focus on donor management and advanced blood processing technologies

While learning from global best practices is crucial, it’s important to acknowledge the unique challenges Kenya faces in implementing these solutions:

1. Resource Constraints:
– Limited financial resources for large-scale technology investments
– Shortage of skilled personnel in specialized areas like healthcare supply chain management
– Inadequate infrastructure, particularly in rural areas

2. Technological Barriers:
– Limited internet connectivity in some regions
– Lack of widespread smartphone penetration for mobile app-based solutions
– Insufficient IT infrastructure in many healthcare facilities

3. Cultural and Social Factors:
– Misconceptions and cultural taboos surrounding blood donation
– Language barriers in communicating with diverse ethnic groups
– Trust issues with healthcare systems in some communities

4. Regulatory Environment:
– Need for updated policies to accommodate new technologies and practices
– Challenges in harmonizing regulations across different counties
– Slow bureaucratic processes that can delay implementation of new initiatives

Strategies for Overcoming Challenges and Implementing Solutions for blood supply chain in Kenya:

1. Phased Implementation:
– Start with pilot projects in urban areas before scaling to rural regions
– Prioritize high-impact, low-cost solutions for initial implementation
– Develop a long-term roadmap with clear milestones and objectives

2. Capacity Building:
– Invest in training programs for healthcare workers and supply chain professionals
– Partner with universities to develop specialized courses in healthcare supply chain management
– Implement mentorship programs pairing experienced professionals with local talent

3. Leveraging Existing Resources:
– Utilize existing mobile networks for SMS-based communication and alerts
– Adapt successful models from other sectors (e.g., agricultural supply chains) to the blood supply context
– Collaborate with NGOs and international organizations for knowledge transfer and resource sharing

4. Community Engagement:
– Work with community leaders and influencers to address cultural barriers
– Develop culturally sensitive education and awareness campaigns
– Implement community-based incentive programs for blood donation

5. Public-Private Partnerships:
– Collaborate with tech companies to develop tailored solutions for Kenya’s context
– Partner with logistics companies to improve transportation and distribution networks
– Engage with private healthcare providers to create a more integrated blood supply system

6. Policy Advocacy:
– Work with policymakers to update regulations and guidelines
– Advocate for increased government funding for blood supply chain improvements
– Promote the creation of a national blood policy that addresses current challenges

Future Outlook and Potential Impact

Improving Kenya’s blood supply chain has the potential to create significant positive impacts:

1. Healthcare Outcomes:
– Reduced mortality rates from conditions requiring blood transfusions
– Improved management of maternal health, reducing childbirth-related deaths
– Enhanced capacity to handle emergencies and mass casualty events

2. Economic Benefits:
– Reduced healthcare costs through improved efficiency and reduced wastage
– Creation of new job opportunities in healthcare supply chain management
– Potential for Kenya to become a regional hub for blood supply expertise

3. Technological Advancement:
– Catalyze innovation in healthcare technology sectors
– Improve overall healthcare infrastructure and data management systems
– Potential for technology transfer to other sectors

4. Social Impact:
– Increased public awareness and participation in healthcare initiatives
– Strengthened community bonds through regular blood donation drives
– Enhanced trust in the healthcare system

5. Regional Influence:
– Opportunity for Kenya to lead East Africa in blood supply chain management
– Potential to export expertise and solutions to neighboring countries
– Enhanced regional cooperation in healthcare initiatives


Addressing Kenya’s blood supply chain challenges requires a multifaceted approach that combines technological innovation, policy reform, community engagement, and skilled professionals. While the task is complex, the potential benefits to public health and the broader healthcare system are immense.

By investing in supply chain specialists, embracing innovative technologies, and learning from global best practices while adapting solutions to the local context, Kenya can work towards building a robust, efficient, and reliable blood supply chain. This not only has the potential to save countless lives but also to position Kenya as a leader in healthcare logistics in the region. 

As we love benchmarking, it would be prudent for those “on the ground” that is, the specialists / those employed eg doctors, Lab techs, nurses, logistics and supply chain specialists and supervisors.

The journey towards an optimized blood supply chain will require sustained effort, collaboration across sectors, and a commitment to continuous improvement. However, with the right strategies and investments, Kenya can overcome its current challenges and ensure that safe, adequate blood is available to all who need it, when they need it.

Supply Chain is more than just the tendering process.

Supply Chain Coded Forum

Join and Share links to your topic for engaging purposes

About the Author

Leave a Reply

You may also like these