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Kenyans mark Valentine’s Day by donating blood

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Tens of Kenyans in the capital of Nairobi on Wednesday marked Valentine’s Day by donating blood that would be used to save lives.

Valentine’s Day is marked globally on Feb. 14, with people using the occasion to express love to those they care for.

Over the years in Kenya, the day has been commercialized to target mainly lovers with flower vendors, hotels and clothes and gift shops cashing in.

Most people on this day wear red clothes, shoes and ties and carry red handbags for ladies, with roses being the flower of choice to express love.

Valentine ‘s Day is a popular day in Kenya, with several organizations seeking to cash in on the mood to make people donate blood.

The drive targeted anyone aged between 16 and 65 and weighing above 50kg, according to the Kenya Red Cross, the main organizer of the blood donation.

All that citizens were required to do is walk to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi central business district and donate blood.

At the site, dozens of make-shift tents had been erected with several messages on blood donation written on them.

And inside the tents were seats where people from different backgrounds sat, filled their details in forms as they waited their turns to donate blood, an exercise that took some five minutes.

Leading from the front in the appeal for blood donation were doctors, government officials including Cabinet secretaries and President Uhuru Kenyatta, private organizations and ordinary Kenyans.

“I encourage you to perform acts of love and compassion that show consideration to others by donating blood,” Kenyatta informed Kenyans.

Najib Balala, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary and his Health counterpart Sicily Kairuki were among government officials who turned up at the KICC to donate blood.

“I donated blood on this important day at the KICC as an expression of love to humanity,” said Balala.

Ouma Oluga, the secretary-general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union, who also donated blood, termed the exercise as the best way to express love.

“We appeal to Kenyans to donate blood. We lose many patients not because we cannot treat them but because we don’t have enough blood in our banks. Hospitals need it before they can start therapy,” said Oluga.

Francis Kamari, a digital marketer, termed blood donation as the best gift one can give.

“Flowers wither after a day, clothes you will outgrow them and food is consumed and one forgets, but with blood donation, you save lives. It is the best thing to do on Valentine’s Day,” he said.

A good number of people who turned to donate blood at the event were first-timers, some of who experienced challenges, thanks to the fears they had.

“Today I donated blood for the first time in my 23 years and my body could not take it perhaps because of the fear I had but I thank the paramedics who attended to me after I fainted,” said Joan Mwambia, a university student.

On social media, specifically Twitter, Kenyans supported the blood donation event under several hashtags, including blooddonationke, showyourlove and valentinesday.

Legislator Esther Passaris noted, “Every 10 minutes, someone in Kenya needs blood. One unit of blood may help up to four people. Join me later at KICC we donate blood,” she rallied her supporters on Twitter.

According to the Red Cross, blood transfusion is needed in several circumstances namely by women with complications during pregnancy, by children with severe anemia often resulting from malnutrition or malaria, by people with trauma and those undergoing surgical procedures.

The organization noted that it had a deficit of 250,000 units of blood in the blood bank, and only such initiatives can help cover the gap. It targeted over 10,000 units during the event.

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