In Nigeria, there are constant blood shortages and in times of need, Nigerians are regularly forced to seek family and friends to donate blood for transfusions - coercion is often required just to stay alive.
The supply of blood when and where it is needed requires a significant rethink - only 15 per cent of all blood requirements is donated voluntarily, for free. The problem affects women hardest, with maternal mortality a huge problem.When you look at the statistics, the situation is pretty grim. Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate is a startling 814 per 100,000 live births, compared to the UK at nine and Germany at six per 100,000.
Temie Giwa-Tubosun returned to Nigeria after giving birth in the USA, where a difficult birth saw her understand the importance of prompt blood transfusions. Giwa-Tubosun found that the issue wasn't just a shortage of blood across Nigeria, but instead it was a problem of logistics - finding out where blood was available, where and when it was needed (and what type), and how best to get it there on time and in a useable condition.
This Nigerian entrepreneur created LifeBank in Lagos as a modern-day digital solution to this very real problem. The app matches those who have registered their blood storages and those that have registered a demand for blood, and works directly with patients, blood banks and hospitals.
The business further went ahead to build a network of moped and special cool boxes that can store blood for up to 42 hours for safe transportation, essentially creating a peer-to-peer network of blood-on-demand solutions.
The system charges hospitals between 1.50 and 15 USD per pint of blood, plus delivery, so the model isn't entirely altruistic. However, it has dramatically changed the blood supply system within Nigeria, and with less than 50,000 USD in funding, LifeBank signed up 94 hospitals, and delivered more than 8,000 units of blood, saving more than 1,300 lives - and earned the praise of Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg:
LifeBank is popular within the private health market, but so far the government isn't willing to engage the company for their service for state-owned public hospitals.
“The hospitals we work with no longer need to send an ambulance and staff just to pick up a few pints of blood when a patient needs it,” said Ms Giwa-Tubosun.
The State is unwilling to spend their limited resources, but arguably are failing. LifeBank is continuing to grow their service, following a further 200,000 USD investment into the service, expanding operations into the Nigerian capital, Abuja, as well as the state of Kaduna. The startup is also looking into delivering other essentials that are often in short supply, such as medical oxygen, vaccines and antivenom, using the same delivery model.
Check out a Ted talk with LifeBank's female founder below: