TEMIE GIWA-TUNBOSUN: Saving Lives By Moving Blood With LIFEBANK

By Funmilayo Ajala

Blood transfusion saves lives and improves health, blood donation is needed to save human lives in times of health crisis, emergency and disasters.

The millions of patients needing transfusion do not have timely access to it due to lack of reliable testing systems, accurate data on the screening of donated blood, staff shortage, and lack of basic laboratory services.

For a country with a population of over 170 million, the estimated annual blood needs in Nigeria is 1.7 million units.

Blood donors are grouped into voluntary donors, replacement donors, and paid donors. The safest of these is the voluntary donor blood.

Blood donation is the only way of acquiring blood to meet emergency requirements in cases of road traffic accidents, complications of pregnancy and childbirth, various anemic disorders and surgical emergencies among others.

The blood banking system in Nigeria is still poorly developed and blood banking needs to be highly regulated to ensure both blood donor and recipient safety.

Meet Temie Giwa-Tunbosun, the CEO and Founder of Lifebank, a discovery and logistics company for blood banks across the country.

Mrs Temie Giwa-Tunbosun. Photo: Temie Giwa-Tunbosun
Mrs Temie Giwa-Tunbosun, CEO and Founder, LifeBank . Photo: Temie Giwa-Tunbosun

How It All Started

For someone that did not study health or anything related to it, Temie is obsessed with the issue. “I think about it all the time, it engages me, keeps me up at night and I ask myself what can I do about it?

Mrs Giwa-Tunbosun was born in Nigeria but grew up partly in the US where she studied. A graduate of Political Science (Undergraduate) and International and Public Sector Management (Masters), Temie had to do her three months’ compulsory internship and she opted to do it in Nigeria.

She worked with DFID on a health project in the Northern part of Nigeria. It was during her internship that she encountered what geared her towards health as a career.

“We were travelling and we came to this village where we found a young woman, who had been in labour for three days and everybody around her were waiting for her to die. It was in a village in Kano, the baby had been breached because it came hands first, all they needed to do was to turn the baby and the baby would be fine but the people around didn’t know what to do and how to do it in an effective way.

As a result of this the baby had died in the process, but the mother has not died and they were just waiting for her to die so the village can move on.

And I just remembered the spirit that she had, I didn’t think she wanted to die that’s why she waited for so long in much pain and she was just waiting and waiting, said Temie”

This incident started the whole Heath journey for Giwa-Tunbosun as she decided to do something about Maternal Mortality and started reading and researching about it till she went back to the United States.

On getting back to the US, Temie worked with a health management company, Fairview in Geneva, Switzerland, after which she went on to Uganda a one of the recipients of Global Health Fellows, an organization which send young Americans who are interested in health to East African countries/villages to work and help with the management of the Heath systems. She worked in a small village in Uganda for a year with her mind still set on coming back to Nigeria.

“Ever since that incidence in Kano, I always felt that my place is in Nigeria, the place I could have influence and impact was in Nigeria”, said Temie.

The Blood Drive And Life Bank

While in Uganda, Temie Giwa-Tunbosun started an NGO called ‘one percent project’. It is not an NGO but it had to be registered as an NGO because of its nature. It is more or less a project.

The goal of the one percent is for people to donate blood. Blood enlightenment was done across some universities in the country and about 8,000 pints of blood was collected. All this was done with the help of her board members while she took care of the funding and operations while in Uganda.

“I know that right now, what I can do is solve the blood problem. So this how big the problem is with blood. Blood is such a centre of health across board. People who need blood ranges from children with malaria because when they have malaria which is pretty bad, they lose lots of nutrients and they need to be transfused, people with anemia, sickle cell they are the category of people who need to change their blood every three months. We have people who have cancer and women.

The second highest cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria is Hemorrhage (Africa has the highest prevalence rate of about 10.5%), there is that category of people who are in terrorist attacks, accidents, so over and over again there’s much need for blood in any health system,” Temie explains.

“In Nigeria we haven’t figured out the sustainable way of getting the blood tested and getting it to where it’s needed, at the time it’s needed. We have about 10% of blood from voluntary donors, about 5% from family replacement and 60% is commercial donors (people who do it for money).

The 60% goes to commercial blood banks making it possible for the blood banks to have stock while at the same time there are so many hospitals where people are dying as a result of no blood.

The commercial blood banks have stock and they are so many hospitals in need of their stock which only last for 6 weeks.The life span of a blood is 6 weeks after which it has to be thrown away. You now see these blood being thrown away in the same hospital where there is shortage of blood and people are dying because of the lack of blood and the problem is just Logistics.

We needed to find a way to get the blood to a place where it’s needed, when its needed. So I started thinking about it and started reflecting on the idea and how we can build it and we also need to make sure that we are moving from 10% voluntary donor to a place like 60,70 or 80 and everywhere in the world, most developed countries are 100% voluntary donors”, Giwa-Tunbosun further explained.

“The 1% project is called so because we only need about 1% of a population giving blood regularly which is like three times a year, and we will have no shortage. If we get 1% of Nigerians to give blood regularly which is about 1.7million people out of 170million people, we would have solved the issue of shortage in Nigeria, once and for all”, said Temie.

What LifeBank Does

There are two products under LifeBank. The first one is called LifeBank App which is a donor database, which requires that you register. This is a smart donor database that reminds you when you are going to give blood, books appointment for you with the nearest location to you.

The second is the discovery and delivery system. All the blood donations centres across the country have been spotted, so people can easily book appointment to give blood thus solving the problem of voluntary shortages.

The cold chain system used in transporting the blood by LifeBank. Photo: Temie Giwa-Tunbosun
The cold chain system used in transporting the blood by LifeBank. Photo: Temie Giwa-Tunbosun

The second product is a discovery platform, which is very similar to Konga market place but this one if for blood. It is where blood banks across the country will release a product and hospitals will request for it and LifeBank will deliver it in a cold chain system. LifeBank will go to the blood bank, pick up the blood and deliver to the hospital where it is needed.

LifeBank do not sell blood, it is mainly a discovery and logistic company.

“We are a discovery company like google, hospitals can search for blood and where we make money is delivery because it’s a lot of money to deliver blood so we do charge for delivery”, explained Temie Giwa-Tunbosun on the process.

The Journey So Far

“So right now we are four months old, we are still very young. We are focusing on private hospitals because it’s easier to do innovation with private hospitals and they have electricity, computers, online system, even though some private hospitals still use the manual system.

Hospitals are very interested, they love it, but we are now negotiating on prices, how much it will cost us to delivery prices. It’s a very busy time and busy process for us and blood banks are happy because they get to sell their excess inventory on LifeBank, said Temie.

On the challenges faced since starting, Temie Giwa-Tunbosun have this to say.

“I think the challenges are two folds because I think that I run two businesses, that is the App {LifeBank app } side and the Plus side {LifeBank plus, which is for the hospital}.

So for Life app (donor app) the challenges are having to inspire a population that has been beaten down, cheated, stressed out, how do you inspire them? it’s very hard, it’s hard work. Nigerians are naturally suspicious, what are you getting out of it, what is the need for doing this?

We don’t make any money from the Donor base app its basically our CSR, like our NGO section. When I explain that to people they get it, but are still doubtful about it. So Nigerians are naturally suspicious and we are talking about blood.

The second part is Plus which is getting hospitals to accept innovation.

They used to do it in a certain way and since there’s a lot of corruption in the system, you won’t believe there would be corruption where blood is concerned but there’s certainly a lot of corruption in the system.

Trying to introduce technology to that part of the system is a big challenge because Technology is transparency. It’s really hard to get the computers to take bribes from you.

So people do not really like the transparency aspect of our work because they have been getting kickbacks and the saddest thing is, a lot of these kickbacks are thrown to patients. It’s the sick that pays for the bribe for they are very desperate for blood.”

Role Of Technology And The Future

“There are a lot of sectors that technology has not played a big role in the past and more and more. Sectors like education, health, manufacturing, all of those sectors are starting to see technology as an enabler.

What we do right now would have cost billions of Naira to do physically in the past. Technology has helped us to leap-frog billions and billions of Naira.

Technology has been an enabler, it helps us save money, it helps us leap-frog a lot of time, efforts, and financials. It helps us do big things faster, cheaper and better.

In five years I see LifeBank across sub-Saharan Africa moving blood across the region. In five years we would be the premier discovery and logistics business in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Temie.

Advice For Female Entrepreneurs

“Just start. If I knew what I know now, I would never have started. If I knew the challenges I would face now, then when I started I would never have started. Not knowing is a blessing, so just start. Whatever idea you have, just start, Lean In to it, do it afraid, just do it. You will start learning as you go as problems you will never thought of will start arising,” advised Temie Giwa-Tunbosun.

 

‘Funmilayo Ajala is a digital media strategist, content producer and Online Editor of Abovewhispers.com

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10 Responses to TEMIE GIWA-TUNBOSUN: Saving Lives By Moving Blood With LIFEBANK

  1. Harryrrah June 16, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Yes oooooooooo. One thing I think I’m sure of is that no matter how little a business is it will surely succeed provided the person involved does the right thing.

    Reply
  2. DSEED June 16, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    This is a great development. An awareness is necessary to make the people know the important and also the advantage of blood donation.

    Reply
  3. Ebonychyqui2 June 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Waaaaaaoh I never knew it was a woman that own life bank ooooooo, meeeeeeeehn am dazed and I must confess you are a great woman ma’am. Thank God you started lifebank, saving lives is an amazing thing to do.God bless you ma

    Reply
  4. Abby June 16, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed in our societies when it comes to voluntary blood donation is that there are so many misconceptions and suspicions which make people quite reluctant to donate. One of those misconceptions is that blood donation I meant for fat people. Body fat shouldn’t be mistaken for the quantity of blood in a person’s body. I used to donate blood while i was in the university and i felt good about it knowing my act would go a long way to save a life.

    Reply
  5. precious. June 16, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    This is a really great development and business that can help the health challenges in our society and give us hope that technology is a must have in our daily lives.

    Reply
  6. maveedah June 16, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    most times Nigerians donate blood not for the real deal but what they get in return..the students in my school just donate blood because of the free indomie and drink and some other packages…you will hear some say they would rather go to hospitals where they would be paid…Nigeria will get there when people will have the pity of fellow humans….God bless you ma’am..

    Reply
  7. Femi Diipo June 16, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    Yeah I think this is really a great idea, downloading the app right away

    Reply
  8. Olakunle Olajide June 17, 2016 at 12:20 am

    Lifebank?? I love this. I remembered joining a group while in school, we called her Blood drive initiative and i think i donated twice or so. Getting people to join a group that was just starting especially when it had to deal with blood was pretty difficult, so i feel the pain of the Lifebank app. But the problem i have with the hospitals is that why do we still have to pay for blood for a patient when i am a voluntary donor. To be sincere i really appreciate this effort because it is one thing i have thought of because i had pass through the rigour of finding replacement donor for a sick patient and it wasn’t funny. All i can say right now is thumbs up and i pray that corruption which has rightly been stated here in the health sector will be made manifest via the Lifebank app and plus.

    Reply
  9. Detutu June 17, 2016 at 10:10 am

    This is fantastic. A very well done to Mrs Tunbosun and thumps up to abovewhispers for finding her out. I aslo have same question as @olajide, Why do the hospitals require patients to pay for a voluntary blood?

    Reply
  10. Bamisebi toluwalope June 17, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Waoh…Good innovation but I think there is no much awareness out there as am also just hearing about this lifesave bank and the app.
    @Addy and maveedah I agree with u both, people no longer donate blood with the right intentions. I could remember back then in school that the only reasons most students go to the hall to donate blood is because of the goodies they get and people collecting it would be happy they are collecting blood but most of these bloods are being thrown away after taking to the labs for screening. And even most times after the donations of all this blood by the students, the teaching hospital will stil cry out that they don’t have blood to give to dying patient.
    Good innovation nd the sky is ur starting point mrs Temie Giwa and I strongly believe that with this innovation,there will b less complains from the hospital that they don’t have blood to transfuse to dying patient. God bless ur beautiful mrs Temie Giwa.

    Reply

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